Local researchers propose tax on sugary, sweetened drinks
Published Thursday, November 29, 2012 4:47PM MST Last Updated Thursday, November 29, 2012 6:35PM MST
Local researchers suggest a tax on soft drinks could help improve the health of Albertans while generating additional provincial revenue.
A new study out of the University of Alberta points to sugary drinks as a major cause of health problems including heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
“The more you drink, the higher you're at risk for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” said University of Alberta researcher Sue Buhler.
Data shows Albertans drink more than one litre of pop per person, per day – which means the province has the highest percentage of people in the country who consume sugar-sweetened beverages.
“We know that we're in the midst of an obesity epidemic,” said Dr. Kim Raine, professor with the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health.
“We're all trying to address obesity and rising rates of obesity and looking at ways that we can create a healthier environment.”
One of those ways includes taxing pop by five cents per hundred millimeters.
Raine and Buhler say such a tax could decrease consumption and funnel money into the health care system to promote healthier lifestyles.
“If it drives people to choose smaller portions, that's a good thing,” Buhler said.
“I would like to see Alberta be a model. To me, it’s a win-win. We’re going to decrease the consumption of an unhealthy beverage and we’re going to give a strong message that we recognize the health risks.”
It’s something Doug Horner, minister of finance, says the province hasn’t looked into it and likely won’t.
“We haven’t had any discussions around that,” Horner said. “We’re not really looking at any further increases along those lines.”
NDP MLA David Eggen said he doesn’t believe a soft drink tax would work.
“Education, I think that's the way to go,” Eggen said. “We need an integrated approach with our education system as well.”
But researchers say a tax would benefit all Albertans, and could generate up to $750 million a year.
That money could go to prevention of chronic disease associated with unhealthy lifestyle choices.
“We really think that this is a potential source of revenue to fund health promotion,” Raine said.
The Canadian Beverage Association issued a statement late Thursday in response to the study, arguing that what it calls "punitive" taxation has been proven to be ineffective at reducing obesity in other jurisdictions.
With files from Bill Fortier