An open letter in response to The Taxing Problem of Sugary Drinks by André Picard from the November 15 issue of The Globe and Mail:
Dear Mr. Picard,
I was pleased to see the attention you brought to the ongoing debate of taxing sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) in your article The Taxing Problem of Sugary Drinks. The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) has been advocating for a tax on SSBs because of the evidence of a direct link between excessive consumption (i.e.1 to 2 servings per day) to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, independent of weight.
As you know, type 2 diabetes is a national health crisis – a new case is diagnosed every three minutes and 29 per cent of Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes. The personal health burden is tragic – a reduction of 5-15 years in life span and the reality that diabetes contributes to 30 per of strokes, 40 per cent of heart attacks and 50 per cent of kidney failure requiring dialysis.
Yet, a single tax on a single item is not the single solution to the type 2 diabetes epidemic. As you referenced, it is “no magic bullet”. This isn’t about the ‘you have to start somewhere’ argument or demonizing one nutrient since we know that consumers can choose to eat and drink no added sugars and still be overweight or obese and at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Nor is our concern confined to SSBs narrowly defined as soft drinks – blended coffee drinks and beverages that masquerade as healthy such as vitamin waters, fruit drinks and energy drinks must also be included. With SSBs, it comes down to the evidence of the direct impact on developing type 2 diabetes.
Moreover, as in other successful public health campaigns, a tax alone is not a sufficient intervention. Ideally, Canada would lead efforts by also ensuring a comprehensive program to promote availability and affordability of healthy foods. A successful program must also include public education, transparent nutrition labeling, improved access to tap water and expanded regulations on advertising to children.
The CDA hopes that governments show their commitment to the health of Canadians not only by funding treatments for illnesses, but also by using the tax system to not only reduce consumption of SSBs but to also promote health.
It has been encouraging to see movements taking place in other countries and even right here in Canada. Thank you for helping to raise this discussion in the public domain since it is imperative we continue to discuss, debate, and do all that we can to support Canadian consumers in making the healthy choice the easy, cheaper choice.
Dr. Jan Hux
Chief Science Officer
Canadian Diabetes Association
Category Tags: Advocacy & Policy;