The caries-related cost and effects of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages
16 March 2019
Tooth decay, especially in children, is a public health concern not only in the UK, but Worldwide. A new study published in the journal Public Health, looked at the link between taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and the impact on dental health.
Researchers from the Netherlands assessed the effect of a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages on dental caries and related treatment costs.
They estimated that a 20% taxation of this kind would result in an average additional 2.13 extra years free from dental caries and a reduction of 1,030,163 caries legions on a population level. They also found that the intervention would save €159.01 million in dental care expenditures. The lifetime revenue gained by the taxation was estimated at €3.49 billion, which was larger than the estimated administrative costs, estimated at €37.3 million.
The model researchers used was designed with reference to the Dutch population aged 6-79 years in 2016, which aimed at simulations relevant for the context of high-income countries.
Limitation reported included the fact that the level of impact of taxation is highly dependent on eating behaviour with other sugar sweetened foods which would affect absolute sugar intake. Price elasticities in this study were based on at-home consumption so sugar intakes may be underestimated depending on consumer preferences for sugar sweetened beverages outside of the home environment.
Researchers also noted that consideration should be made to take into account meal deals that could reduce the price difference and encourage consumers to choose high-sugar products. They commented that this could particularly affect the amount of health benefits estimated for children and young people as they are more likely to consume meal deals or combo meals.
Their model shows that sugar-sweetened beverage taxation may substantially improve oral health and reduce the economic burden of dental caries. This study explores one of the many benefits of the uses of taxation to improve public health and as more research is carried out in this area we hope to see more examples of this in the future.