Recently, B.C. Finance Minister Carole James delivered Budget 2020 and news of the first-ever provincial tax on sweetened carbonated beverages to improve the health of young British Columbians. Research has shown that Canadian youth are the largest consumers of harmful sugary drink products, averaging more than half a litre a day.
“We are pleased to see the B.C. government take an important step in addressing the health consequences related to the regular consumption of harmful sugary drinks,” says Dr. Seema Nagpal, vice-president of Science & Policy with Diabetes Canada. “A tax is a critical component of a broader strategy to promote healthy eating and drinking; B.C. is sending a message to the rest of Canada to take action.”
Diabetes is a national health crisis. Another Canadian is diagnosed with diabetes every three minutes. Urgent action is needed now on several fronts to reduce regular consumption of sugars and thereby lessen the burden of obesity and diabetes in Canada. In order to curb this epidemic and as noted in Diabetes Canada’s position statement on sugar, several interventions are required, including improved food security, transparent nutrition labelling, restricting marketing to kids, and a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
Governments have a responsibility to ensure their own financial sustainability and taxes such as those in place on tobacco and alcohol can provide a valuable source of revenue which can be used to fund measures that promote healthy communities. The savings and revenues generated from a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages can be significant and should be reinvested in healthy public policy initiatives such as a provincial diabetes strategy using the Diabetes 3600 framework. Such an investment will mean fewer cases of type 2 diabetes in British Columbia, reductions in complications and significant savings in health care and benefits costs.
We look forward to continued discussions with the government to learn more about their implementation and considerations regarding reinvesting tax revenue into health policies and interventions. The increased risk for type 2 diabetes with excessive consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is clear and we urge all governments to make a commitment to promote the health of Canadians by introducing similar interventions.
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