Sugar-sweetened beverage taxation in the Region of the Americas

Overview

Sugar-sweetened beverage excise taxes are an effective evidence-based noncommunicable diseases (NCD) prevention policy. Along with tobacco and alcohol excise taxes, they are a tool to attain the Sustainable Development Goals, and are recommended by the World Health Organization to modify behavioral risk factors associated with obesity and NCDs, as featured in the WHO Global Action Plan. Taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages have been described as a triple win for governments, because they 1) improve population health, 2) generate revenue, and 3) have the potential to reduce long-term associated healthcare costs and productivity losses. Taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages has been implemented in more than 73 countries worldwide. In the Region of the Americas, 21 PAHO/WHO Member States apply national-level excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and seven jurisdictions apply local sugar-sweetened beverage taxes in the United States of America. While the number of countries applying national excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages in the Region is promising, most of these taxes could be further leveraged to improve their impact on sugar-sweetened beverages consumption and health. This publication provides economic concepts related to the economic rationale for using sugar-sweetened beverage taxes and the costs associated with obesity; key considerations on tax design including tax types, bases, and rates; an overview of potential tax revenue and earmarking; evidence on the extent to which these taxes are expected to impact prices of taxed beverages, the demand for taxed beverages, and substitution to untaxed beverages; and responses to frequent questions about the economic impacts of sugar-sweetened beverage taxation.