Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages will be a positive step forward to protect public health

cokeStatement in support of a Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax in India, signed by medical experts of India, US, UK, Mexico and Brazil, and sent to members of Parliament, ministers:

India’s burden of chronic disease is on the rise. The country has experienced an alarming increase in rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. These diseases destroy families and communities. Tragically, much of this increase is attributable to a cause we can address: the dramatic changes in the Indian diet.

Current research suggests that India may reverse decades of public health gains if these trends continue, further burdening an already overstressed and increasingly expensive health care system. While processed foods in general are a source of concern, an increasing body of new public health research shows that one set of products—sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)—pose a unique risk of increasing the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Recognizing the unique perils of such products, India’s Chief Economic Advisor has proposed taxing sugar-sweetened beverages in ways similar to tobacco in the upcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill. This follows the advice and recommendations of numerous independent international scientific and public health bodies, including a strong public statement favoring SSB-taxation by the World Health Organization in January 2016.

India would follow the successful taxation strategies in Mexico and parts of the United States, which have significantly lowered SSB consumption. Mexico introduced a soda tax in January 2014 and saw a 12% drop in SSB sales by December 2014. A 2014 Stanford University study concluded that a 20% tax on SSBs in India would avert 11.2 million cases of overweight/obesity and 400,000 cases of type 2 diabetes between 2014 and 2023.

The tax would also substantially increase revenue available to the government to support other public health measures. With over 60 million people with type 2 diabetes, the Indian government has a duty to its citizens to address a crisis that causes such misery, and that threatens to break an already over-burdened public health system.

Diseases caused by SSBs—such as diabetes—are chronic, irreversible conditions that will levy a heavy burden on health care spending for many decades to come and will particularly impact low-income Indians disproportionately. India cannot afford to ignore the changing diet landscape that will exact a high toll if current trends in the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages continue.

Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages in ways similar to tobacco is a positive step forward to protect the public health interests of all Indians.

Signed:

Dr. Sanjay Basu, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Stanford University, Palo Alto

Dr. Arun Gupta, Senior Pediatrician and Regional Coordinator, International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) Asia, New Delhi

Dr. Aseem Malhotra, Cardiologist Adviser to the UK’s National Obesity Forum and Founding Member of Action on Sugar, UK

Dr. Raj Patel, Research Professor, Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Barry Popkin, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition and PhD economist, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dr. Laura Schmidt, Professor of Health Policy, School of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco

Amit Srivastava, Coordinator, India Resource Center, Berkeley

Endorsed by:

  • India

Dr. Soumyadeep Bhaumik, Public Health Consultant-Evidence Synthesis, Kolkata

Dr. Swati Bhave, MD, Executive Director, Association of Adolescent and Child Care in India (AACCI), New Delhi

Sutapa Biswas, Executive Director, Cancer Foundation of India, Kolkata

Dr. Ratna Devi, Board Chair, Indian Alliance of Patient Groups (IAPG); CEO, Dakshayani and Amaravati Health and Education, New Delhi

Dr. M.M.A. Faridi, MD, DCH, MNAMS, FIAP, FNNF, Professor & Head, Department of Pediatrics, University College of Medical Sciences, GTB Hospital, New Delhi

Jyotsna Govil, Honorary Secretary, Indian Cancer Society, New Delhi

Dr. Seema Gulati, Head, Nutrition Research Group, National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation (N-DOC), New Delhi

Dr. Umesh Kapil, Professor, Public Health Nutrition, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi

Dr. Anand Krishnan, Professor, Centre for Community Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi

Dr. Dharini Krishnan, Consultant Dietitian, Chennai

Sheela Krishnaswamy, RD, Diet, Nutrition & Wellness Consultant, Bangalore

Prof. Anura Kurpad, President, Nutrition Society of India; Professor & Head of Physiology & Nutrition, St John’s Medical College, Bangalore

Dr. Jagmeet Madan, Professor, Principal, Department of Food and Nutrition, Sir Vithaldas Thackersey College of Home Science (Autonomous), SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai

Dr. Anoop Misra, Chairman, Fortis-C-DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology; Chairman, National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol

Foundation (N-DOC); Director, Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases, Diabetes Foundation (India), New Delhi

Dr. V. Mohan, MD, PhD, Chairman & Chief Diabetologist, Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre; President & Chief of Diabetes Research, Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, Chennai

Bhavna B. Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, Voluntary Health Association of India, New Delhi

Dr. Nandita Murukutla, Country Director, India & Director of Global Research, Policy, Advocacy and Communication, Vital Strategies, New Delhi

Narendhar, Executive Director, Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), New Delhi

Dr. M. R. Rajagopal, Founder & Chairman, Pallium India, Thiruvananthapuram

Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi

Prof. H.P.S. Sachdev, Senior Consultant Pediatrics and Clinical Epidemiology, Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research, New Delhi

Dr. Roshani Sanghani, MD, Endocrinologist (ABIM), Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai

Dr. Anju Seth, Director Professor of Pediatrics and In-charge, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi

Dr. Sukhneet Suri, Assistant Professor, Department of Food Technology, Vivekananda College, University of Delhi, Delhi

  • International

Mark Bittman, Author and Food Journalist

Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Dean, Sanford School of Public Policy; Robert L. Flowers Professor of Public Policy; Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham

Alejandro Calvillo Unna, Director, El Poder del Consumidor, Mexico

Geoffrey Cannon, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Prof. Olivier De Schutter, Co-Chair, International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food); Former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food (2008-2014);

Member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Centre for Philosophy of Law (CPDR); Institute for Interdisciplinary Research in Legal Sciences (JUR-I), University of Louvain (UCL), Belgium

Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston

Michael F. Jacobson, PhD, President, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, DC

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Truth Initiative Distinguished Professor in Tobacco Control; Director, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco

Cristin E. Kearns, DDS, MBA, Postdoctoral Fellow, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences; UCSF School of Dentistry; Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Sandeep P. Kishore, MD/PhD Fellow, Yale University; President, Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network, New Haven

Jim Krieger, MD, MPH, Executive Director, Healthy Food America; Clinical Professor of Medicine and Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle

Robert S. Lawrence, MD, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and International Health,Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore

Reynaldo Martorell, PhD, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of International Nutrition, Hubert

Department of Global Health & Senior Advisor, Global Health Institute, Emory University, Atlanta

Dr. Carlos A. Monteiro, Professor of Nutrition and Public Health, School of Public Health at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, Dean, Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy;

Jean Mayer Chair in Nutrition; Editor-in-Chief, Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, Tufts University, Medford

Dr. Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, New York

Dr. Anisha Patel, Assistant Professor, Division of General Pediatrics at University of California, San Francisco

Lorrene Ritchie, PhD, RD, Director and CE Specialist, Nutrition Policy Institute, Oakland

Dr. Juan A. Rivera, Director, Center for Research in Nutrition and Health, National Public Health Institute (Mexico); President, Latin American Nutrition Society (SLAN)

Isabela Sattamini, MSc., PhD candidate at University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Dean Schillinger, MD, Professor of Medicine in Residence; Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

Jaime Sepulveda, MD, MPH, MSc, DrSc, Haile T. Debas Distinguished Professor of Global Health; Executive Director, Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco

Lynn Silver, MD, MPH, FAAP, Senior Advisor for Chronic Disease and Obesity, Public Health Institute, Oakland

Mary Story, PhD, RD, Professor of Global Health and Community and Family Medicine, Duke University

Allyn l. Taylor, JD, JSD, Affiliate Professor of Law, University of Washington, Seattle

Walter Willett, MD, Chair, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutritio

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