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New book on sugar-sweetened beverage taxation

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The Evaluation Platform on Obesity Prevention (EPOP) from the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute – Laval University (Institute) is pleased to announce the launch of the book "Taxing Soda for Public Health: a Canadian Perspective" by Springer. This work provides an exhaustive analysis of the rationale, potential impacts and applicability of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) as a public health measure aimed to contribute preventing obesity and diabetes, particularly in Canada. Focused on beverages containing added sugars (e.g. regular soft drinks, fruit drinks), the book presents the pros and cons of such an intervention, and indicates that a tax on SSBs could be part of a portfolio of nutrition-enhancing policies in Canada.

According to Dr Philippe De Wals, co-author of the book, Scientific Director of the EPOP, research scientist at the Institute and Professor at Laval University's Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, "Provided several concerns and uncertainties are accounted for, several objectives may be pursued by a tax: in a short term, to raise awareness of the population on the importance to avoid SSB overconsumption; in a medium term, to raise fiscal revenues truly earmarked for prevention and health promotion causes; and in a medium to longer term, to contribute reducing SSB overconsumption while increasing healthier beverage choices in the population."

"The analysis of information from a diversity of domains (e.g. public health nutrition, economics, law, policy, communication, ethics) and from about 20 cases of SSB taxation implemented across the world made it possible to provide an exhaustive overview of the topic. The book brings various insights into this public health measure increasingly discussed at an international level," comments Yann Le Bodo, first author, Ph.D. student in Community Health at Laval University, and affiliated with the Institute.

"The book covers not only potential tax effects on behaviours and health but also tax justification and applicability concerns. It puts the emphasis on the Canadian situation, but many of the ideas presented may be informative for other jurisdictions," adds Marie-Claude Paquette, co- author, Associate Professor at the University of Montreal's Department of nutrition of the Faculty of Medicine.

The book addresses various themes:

  • Public health concerns related to SSB overconsumption
  • SSB consumption and marketing trends in Canada
  • SSB taxes introduced across the world as public health initiatives
  • The contribution that taxation could have as a public health policy instrument within a comprehensive healthy eating promotion strategy
  • A literature review of potential effects a tax could have on SSB price, consumer demand, energy intake and population health
  • Potential revenues that could be raised from a tax and how these could be earmarked for prevention and health promotion
  • The feasibility of SSB taxation (potential tax types, scopes and rates), in particular at the federal and provincial levels in Canada
  • The acceptability of a "soda tax" among stakeholders and the public
  • The evaluation challenges raised by an SSB taxation policy

The book reminds us that:

  • About one in four Canadian adults and above one in ten Canadian children and youth are obese1. Obesity is known to increase the risk of various non-communicable diseases including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
  • Scientific evidence confirms that SSB overconsumption increases the risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and dental caries.
  • The average contribution of added sugars to daily calories in Canadians has been estimated to be 9.9% in adults, 10.4% in children and 14.1% in adolescents2: these average values suggest how difficult it may be for frequent SSB consumers to limit their daily energy intake from free sugars below 10%, as recommended by the World Health Organization.

Attempting to avoid scientific jargon so that readers could easily go through its contents, this new book will be of interest for a large audience including policymakers, health professionals, advocacy groups, researchers at the Canadian and international levels, students and all other parties interested in nutrition policies.

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Reference: Le Bodo, Y., Paquette, M.-C., & De Wals, P. (2016). Taxing Soda for Public Health: a Canadian perspective. Springer ISBN 978-3-319-33647-3

Taxing Soda for Public Health is available (printed and electronic versions) on Springer's website: http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319336473. A 4-page document summarizing the key messages of the book (French and English versions) is also available on the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute's website: IUCPQ.qc.ca/taxing-soda-for-public-health

1 Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). (2015). Chronic Disease and Injury Indicator Framework. Quick Stats Overview. http://infobase.phacaspc.gc.ca/cdiif/

2 Brisbois, T., Marsden, S., Anderson, G., & Sievenpiper, J. (2014). Estimated Intakes and Sources of Total and Added Sugars in the Canadian Diet. Nutrients, 6(5), 1899-1912. doi:10.3390/nu6051899

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