Chile’s sugar tax sharply reduced sales of sugary drinks

Chile?s sugar tax sharply reduced sales of sugary drinks

Chile’s sugar tax has led to a 21.6% reduction in sales of sugary drinks in Chile between 2011 and 2015. The study by an international team led by researchers at the University of York seems to show that the tax has been successful reducing the nation’s preference for all things sweet. It reflects early findings of the sugar obesity strategy in the UK.

Around the world more than 20 countries, including the UK, Mexico and France, have introduced a tax on sugary drinks in a bid to cut consumption and curb a growing global obesity epidemic. In 2014, Chile was the world’s number one per capita consumer of sugary drinks with an average of 190 calories sold per person per day, ahead of Mexico -  a nation famous for its love of Coca Cola. According to Chile’s health ministry, three in four Chileans are overweight or obese.

Marc Suhrcke, a professor in Global Health Economics at the University of York and one of the study’s authors said the study showed that even small price hikes are enough to motivate consumers to change their buying habits. "Other countries may take heart from our findings, in that it indicates that the tax incentive may not need to be huge to have impact," he said. "For those countries interested in curbing excessive sugar-sweetened beverage consumption (and the related disease burden in terms of obesity, chronic diseases and dental health), the results lend further support to the notion that fiscal policy incentives can make a difference".  

The tax which was introduced by the Chilean government in 2014 targets non-alcoholic beverages to which colourants, flavourings or sweeteners have been added. The levy increases existing taxes on drinks containing 6.25 grams or more of added sugar per 100ml from 13% to 18%, while the tax on drinks containing less than this amount of sugar was cut from 13% to 10%.

So-called sin taxes have increasingly been proposed as an effective way of curbing growing waistlines in many countries with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending that governments impose a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks. The UK whose own sugar tax came into effect in April this year is one of a growing number of countries to have adopted the policy. Mexico’s sugar tax, also introduced in 2014, led to 17% fewer purchases of sweet drinks among lower-income people, while consumer purchasing changed little among the more well-off.

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