A nationwide, penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would prevent thousands of heart attacks, strokes, cases of diabetes and premature deaths, helping avoid billions of dollars in medical costs over 10 years, according to a study published in Health Affairs. This is the first major study to predict how specific health problems and financial costs could be directly affected by such a tax.
Researchers at Columbia University and the University of California, San Francisco, calculated that a penny-per-ounce tax would reduce overall consumption of sugary drinks by 15 percent among adults ages 25 to 64. They also estimated that, between 2010 and 2020, it would prevent 2.4 million diabetes person-years (a measure that combines how many people have diabetes with how long each of those people lives with the disease), 95,000 cases of coronary heart disease, 8,000 strokes and 26,000 premature deaths. Their calculations indicate the change would help the nation avoid more than $17 billion in medical costs during those 10 years.
A penny-per-ounce tax would mean an extra 12 cents per can or 20 cents per bottle, a price increase of about 15 percent to 25 percent.