16 comments

  • reedf1 14 days ago
    And consumption of erythritol, xylitol, and other sugar alcohols (maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol...) goes completely unmonitored. It's important to note that in most products sugar was simply replaced by sweetener - not reduced. Are we okay with this large scale natural experiment on children's health? There is building evidence of glucose tolerance, prothrombosis, and cardiovascular risk.
    • throwaway743950 14 days ago
      Let's not pretend sweeteners are anywhere near as damaging as sugar.
      • slifin 14 days ago
        I know lots of people, loved ones included who are utterly addicted to sugar-free soft drinks they will not even touch the "full fat" versions.

        There are no nutrients there and they appear more addictive, which is why I suspect the industry was so accommodating in moving away from sugar

        • dole 14 days ago
          Diet Coke is notorious for having higher caffeine content than its brethren. Edit: I mean, that's why I love it
        • rsynnott 14 days ago
          > and they appear more addictive

          _Massive_ citation needed, tbh. Sugar is highly addictive.

          (Also, I mean, even if aspartame _was_ very addictive, to some extent, well, so what? To be clear, soft drinks ~never contain the sugar alcohols that people are talking about above; the sheer volumes would have, well, undesirable digestive impact. They use aspartame, which is pretty well-understood at this point.)

        • aaomidi 14 days ago
          We’re adding fat to soft drinks now?
          • walthamstow 14 days ago
            Full fat is a Britishism for whole milk and it's used to refer to non-diet drinks too as a way of saying full sugar. Original coke is often called 'full fat coke'.
        • shrimp_emoji 14 days ago
          Real sugar soda tastes like shit by comparison. It's less sweet, and it's got a sour aftertaste as the flora in your mouth begin fermenting the sugar to acid. And you get cavities and weight gain as bonuses.
        • bondarchuk 14 days ago
          fat??
          • soulchild77 14 days ago
            Fat as in fat models, thin controllers ;-)
      • faeriechangling 14 days ago
        Depending on the person they can be worse since sugar alcohols tend to cause digestive issues whereas sugar doesn’t.
      • bmacho 14 days ago
        Humans eat sugars for thousands of years now (and honey since millions of years), but random sweeteners are new.

        I'd say let's not pretend that any map made by splashing paint on a paper is the terrain, and go full retard based on that.

        • robertlagrant 14 days ago
          Humans have not eaten this much sugar for thousands of years.
          • Wolfenstein98k 14 days ago
            They have not eaten any artificial sweeteners for more than a few tens of years.
          • bmacho 14 days ago
            All the living humans, in average? No.

            But otherwise, individually, why wouldn't they? A lot of people had the sweet tooth, and the money, and they ate this much sugar, or even more.

            • jedberg 14 days ago
              Because until recently it was very expensive to get sugar. Only the richest people could even afford any at all.

              There were lots of things with small amounts of natural sugars, but nothing like the processed foods we have now.

              • strken 14 days ago
                The Hadza get 15 to 20% of their calories from honey: https://globalhealth.duke.edu/news/what-can-hunter-gatherers...
                • jedberg 14 days ago
                  First, honey is not the same as refined sugar.

                  Secondly the article itself states that it’s the intense exercise that keeps them healthy, not their diet.

                  • strken 14 days ago
                    In response to the first point, honey is predominantly fructose, glucose, and water. If you think sugar hydrolysed by bees is better for you than HFCS hydrolysed by humans, why? Is it the glucose?

                    In response to the second, do you agree with the original statement that implied sugar was damaging, or do you think it has no ill effects on someone who exercises enough? If walking 8 to 12km a day can completely counteract such large quantities of sugar in the diet, does that not make sugar harmless in many cases?

            • dtech 14 days ago
              I fail to see how this is relevant, if anything it's evidence of harm. Those people notoriously had rotting teeth [1] and probably a myriad of other health issues (many unrelated to sugar)

              [1] https://www.thevintagenews.com/2016/01/18/tudor-england-the-...

        • rsynnott 14 days ago
          > Humans eat sugars for thousands of years now

          Indeed, and that has been plenty of time to discover that, in excess, it kills us. Despite intense scrutiny, there is no reason to think that the same goes for aspartame, which is the only sweetener used in significant amounts in soft drinks in the UK, and thus the only one promoted by this levy.

          • agurk 14 days ago
            I don't have an opinion on the health effects of sweeteners, but as I noted in a longer comment on this page, multiple sweeteners are commonly used together and aspartame is far from universal in the mix.
          • waihtis 14 days ago
            Research suggests that aspartame increases the risk of:

                -certain types of cancer, including lymphoma, leukemia, urinary tract tumors, and neurological tumors
            
                -type 2 diabetes
            
                -preterm delivery
            
                -toxicity in the kidneys
            
                -toxic liver disease
            
                -harmful changes to the salivary glands
            
            
            Your "completely safe without question" additive, sir
            • xigoi 14 days ago
              Is there any food that doesn’t cause cancer according to some study?
        • croes 14 days ago
          If you know one road is dangerous and the other may or may not, which one do you choose?
          • meowfly 14 days ago
            This conversation always goes like this:

            ----

            Person: Diet soda is bad for you

            Me: It's better than sugar and especially high fructose corn syrup

            Person: Just drink water

            ----

            Ok... Such a helpful suggestion. We should all just drink water, just exercise, just save money, just work harder, just put down our phone.

            I wonder why we don't all just do all the right things all of the time.

        • waihtis 14 days ago
          a rare smart take on HN, hats off
      • Wolfenstein98k 14 days ago
        Citation needed.

        They will have an outsized effect on children (everything does due to their rapid growth, and longer time to bioaccumulate). There is not currently pressing evidence of harm, but little study has been done in children, and some signs suggest there may be issues (see other posts upthread).

    • frereubu 14 days ago
      This is a good write-up on the emerging issues around some sweeteners: https://www.science.org/content/blog-post/and-now-xylitol
    • FriedrichN 14 days ago
      Sugar alcohols will never be as popular as more obvious choices like aspartame and sucralose. Most people have at least some adverse reaction to sugar alcohols. Personally, all of them, used in any meaningful quantity, turn me into a bloated farty mess that ends with diarrhoea. Absolutely terrible stuff.
      • antisthenes 14 days ago
        > Most people have at least some adverse reaction to sugar alcohols.

        Citation? I have a decent number of friends who are sugar-free soda enjoyers. They don't seem to have any adverse effects from these sugar substitutes.

        Can you link any papers about these adverse reactions?

        • FriedrichN 14 days ago
          I have yet to encounter a soda that uses sugar alcohols, most use aspartame, ace-K, sucralose, or stevia. Those don't bother me at all.

          But the side-effects of sugar alcohols are pretty well known (especially to anyone who has had the pleasure of eating beyond their threshold). I haven't searched for any papers but I'm sure you'll find plenty that conclude that many people have adverse reactions to sugar alcohols.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_alcohol#Side_effects

          • reedf1 14 days ago
            It's in sugar free red bull unfortunately.
            • FriedrichN 14 days ago
              Not where I live (ace-K and sucralose). Maybe it differs per region.
        • rimunroe 14 days ago
          This is very easily searchable. Here's the first result:

          Gastrointestinal Disturbances Associated with the Consumption of Sugar Alcohols with Special Consideration of Xylitol: Scientific Review and Instructions for Dentists and Other Health-Care Professionals - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5093271/

        • josefritzishere 14 days ago
          Mannitol is literally a laxative if you're looking for an adverse reaction... Just eat a few too many haribo sugar-free gummies.
    • rsynnott 14 days ago
      Virtually all artificially sweetened soft drinks in the Uk (that’s what the levy applies to) are sweetened with aspartame, which is fairly well-understood.
      • agurk 14 days ago
        > Virtually all artificially sweetened soft drinks in the Uk are sweetened with aspartame

        A quick look at a few soft drinks I could think of, and their UK sweeteners:

          Fanta: Aspartame, Acesulfame 
          Coke Zero: Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Enzymatically Produced Steviol Glycosides
          Pepsi: Acesulfame K, Sucralose
          Irn Bru: Aspartame, Acesulfame K
          Tizer: Acesulfame K, Sucralose
          Old Jamaica Ginger Beer: Sucralose
          Lipton Iced Tea: Steviol Glycosides from Stevia
          Ribena: acesulfame K, Sucralose
        
        There seem to be no clear winners, with the most noticeable finding that multiple ones are usually used.
        • rsynnott 14 days ago
          Acesulfame-K and friends is normally used in small amounts with aspartame; individually they both taste bloody awful, particularly Acesulfame K, but together they taste borderline acceptable.

          Must say I wasn't aware there was so much sucralose in use.

          • reedf1 14 days ago
            A personal guilty pleasure is sugar-free red bull. Sorbitol, Sucralose, Ace-k unfortunately.
            • rsynnott 14 days ago
              Huh, how much sorbitol do they put in it?! I thought that one was mostly only used in low-volume applications, because in large volumes, it's a laxative (AIUI this is why you rarely see sugar alcohols used as sweeteners in drinks.)
  • teractiveodular 14 days ago
    Misleading headline: it's not total sugar consumption, but sugar from soft drinks that halved after the tax (on soft drinks).

    Per quick Googling, for adults soft drinks represent only 16% of sugar consumption, although I suspect the distribution of soft drinks consumption itself is quite uneven (as in, there are many adults who don't drink soft drinks, and many who drink nothing but).

    • n4r9 14 days ago
      I'd also expect that kids drink sugary soft drinks more than adults.
      • makingstuffs 14 days ago
        I’d also presume that the consumption of sugar replacements has increased by an amount related that of sugar’s decline. In the UK you’re hard pressed to find any actual real sugar in soft drinks since the tax was imposed. Instead most things are packed to the gills with alternatives.
        • n4r9 14 days ago
          What do you mean by "actual real sugar"? Do you mean a specific chemical like fructose or sucrose, the source of the sugar, or something else?

          Fanta, Sprite, Dr Pepper and Pepsi all reduced their sugar content to around half (~5g/100ml) following the sugar tax. Coca Cola still has it up at ~10g/100ml. They all still have sugar in their nutrional info. I'm not sure that the source of the sugar has changed, but I don't know what the source actually is. I know that in the US they tend to use high-fructose corn syrup because it's cheap, but that the EU restricts import of this. Would be interesting to see whether any changes have happened here as a consequence of Brexit.

      • imadierich 14 days ago
        [dead]
  • Sparyjerry 14 days ago
    I believe in sugar free soda as an alternative to regular soda, however the "experts" in this article are completely off base to say it is a no brainer to tax other sugary items. Sure, reduction of sugar intake -via soda- was reduced per the article, but sugar intake is not even the right measurement of success. The right measurement is health, were BMI, obesity, diabetes, heart problems, or overall mortality rate reduced. You can cut all the sugar you want but if you are consuming other carbohydrates or calories as a replacement, then you are doing all for naught. Not saying its true, but imagine someone whose hunger is satiated by consuming small amounts of sugar resulting in overall lower calorie intake. Again, sugar intake is a meaningless stat without the resulting health impact being taken into account.
  • walthamstow 14 days ago
    People are still buying and drinking fizzy sweet drinks marketed by mega corps, its just that they've been reformulated to be something like 25/75 sugar/sweetener so they aren't subject to the tax. All popular drinks in the UK are formulated like this now, the exception being original coke.
    • Ekaros 14 days ago
      Or it will destroy sales. One "store-brand" energy drink did this move and it destroyed the sales so badly they bought full-sugar version back.

      Still, it seems in general things are moving to this direction as only normal drink I see on fountains is now Coca-Cola...

    • shalmanese 14 days ago
      Isn't that exactly the point of the policy? Consumer habits don't have to change but their sugar consumption goes down because of economically rational incentives and they have to make an affirmative change in habits to go back to their previous levels of sugar consumption.
      • dzhiurgis 14 days ago
        I don't think anyone knows what the policy is, other than virtue signalling.

        Personally I'd argue sugar is worse for adults (sedentary lifestyle, means to buy it) than kids (fast growth, little money).

    • elthran 14 days ago
      Yeah, it's definitely seems it's this from my perspective. The companies reformulated and reduced our full-sugar options, all so they didn't have to put their prices up, at the cost of the tastes of their products and consumer choices. And then the last few years hit and they massively up their prices anyway.

      I always happily pay extra for original coke, but so often with other brands I can no longer find the full sugar versions in stock

  • standardUser 14 days ago
    The tax is at most $0.31 per sugary drink (18 or 24 pence depending on sugar content) and it only applies to beverages. Impressive if such a small and niche tax had that big of an impact. I imagine the raised awareness caused by passing the law did as much as the tax itself.

    I spent some time in Mexico and all of the packaged foods have a big warning if they're too sugar-heavy. It instantly changed my shopping habits because it made me question foods I had taken for granted. I'd argue that's a better use of government power than a tax. The former approach requires business to bend to the public will, while the latter manipulates the public at their own expense.

    • lebski88 14 days ago
      We've also had those macro nutrient warning flags on all packaged food for quite a few years in the UK. The sugar tax is on top of that.

      One of the main effects of the sugar tax was that so many manufacturers just changed their recipe to avoid having to raise prices. So the option to pay more in the shop isn't even there. Coke and Pepsi are the notable counter examples.

    • rightbyte 14 days ago
      It probably shifted consumption to artificially sweetened soda, right?
      • robertlagrant 14 days ago
        It did three things:

        - cans of sugary drinks got smaller, to avoid the limit that was taxed, so some people bought cans with less sugar in

        - some people bought more artifically sweetened drinks

        - some people paid more for the same amount of sugar

        • Moldoteck 14 days ago
          wait, so the limit/tax is not per percent mass of the final product but just overall quantity inside?
          • robertlagrant 14 days ago
            Sorry - I got that wrong. They got smaller so the overall price would be the same, when the tax is included.
      • standardUser 14 days ago
        There was also a decrease in sugary foods despite no tax (per the article) though it also says there's been a downward trend in overall sugar consumption since 2008.
  • TrackerFF 14 days ago
    It's a lot of sugar.

    Imagine a kid drinks one small (0.33L) can of soda, every day, all year round.

    A regular Cola/Fanta/Sprite/etc. usually has around 10 grams of sugar, so 33 grams of sugar for every can. One gram of sugar is roughly equivalent to one gram of carbohydrates, which has 4 kcal of energy pr. gram. A small can comes to 132 kcal.

    Consuming that every day of the year, comes to around 48000 kcal of excess energy (12 kg of sugar!). One kg of bodyfat is roughly equivalent to 7700 kcal.

    If this kid lives a very sedentary lifestyle, so that every can that's consumed is excess calories, the worst case would be 5-6 kg of extra bodyfat in year. Luckily it is more complex than that, and the weight gain would likely be much less. But still, over the years a habit like that could easily lead to many kg of extra bodyfat.

    Now if you go for a lighter alternative, like those drinks that mix sugars and sweeteners, that could cut down sugar intake by half (to a quarter). Or diet soda, which is close to zero calories.

    The best would of course to teach your kid to exclusively drink water when they're thirsty, and keep the soda as a weekend treat.

    Bad habits die hard.

    • Fire-Dragon-DoL 14 days ago
      They can also drink milk when they are thirsty (which would make them feel full), if they want an alternative to water
    • blackoil 14 days ago
      > The best would of course to teach your kid to exclusively drink water when they're thirsty, and keep the soda as a weekend treat.

      Best way is don't keep these drinks in school and at home. Don't buy in bulk. You buy at once max one can per person and consume it.

  • choffee 14 days ago
    I wonder how much of this was due to the tax and how much about it being in the news a lot at the time. The article seems to suggest this was just 2019 results I wonder how the trend has continued. Also if we have just moved people to sweetener then are we just going from one health issue to another? An interesting correlation none the less. It would also be interesting to see if the health of people had changed over time as well. If all we have done is remove some sugar from drinks and people are getting just as sick then it feels like an unnecessary pain point. I do feel that longer term education would be better, that and banning advertising of high sugar items as we did for tobacco. For instance all the bus stops near me are plastered in junk food and high sugar items which just make them feel normal. Bring back the veg marketing board!
    • yungporko 14 days ago
      i'm certain it's neither, what actually happened was basically all popular drinks in the entirety of the UK except for coca cola and pepsi (which cost more) just stopped selling non-diet versions of their drinks to avoid the tax, it's not that people are choosing to avoid sugar, they literally just can't buy it.
    • rsynnott 14 days ago
      > I do feel that longer term education would be better, that and banning advertising of high sugar items as we did for tobacco. For instance all the bus stops near me are plastered in junk food and high sugar items which just make them feel normal. Bring back the veg marketing board!

      Sadiq Khan did this for TfL, and there is some evidence that it has worked to some extent: https://evidence.nihr.ac.uk/alert/advertising-ban-was-linked...

      Of course, there was absolute _outrage_ (certainly entirely grassroots and not instigated by agribusiness, dear me no), so it would be politically sensitive to expand.

  • t0bia_s 14 days ago
    Glorification (propaganda) of taxation or regulation looks reasonable. What about personal (patents) responsibility and information about consumption unhealthy food/drinks?
  • shzhdbi09gv8ioi 14 days ago
    Its not like the non-sugar sweeteners are any more healthy.

    https://edition.cnn.com/2024/06/06/health/xylitol-heart-atta...

    • spacebanana7 14 days ago
      Aspartame is the most studied chemical in history, and there has never been repeatable evidence of harm.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspartame_controversy

      • Rinzler89 14 days ago
        But Aspartame tastes like ass to me. It leaves that nasty chemical aftertaste in your mouth. I have no idea how people can't taste the difference between sugar and aspartame.
        • jeroenhd 14 days ago
          You're just unlucky. The taste issue is determined by genetics [1], although the grossest taste is often the result of sweeteners combined with aspartame, like Ace K.

          Sweetener mixes are made so that most people will not taste a gross aftertaste. Some people will experience a bitter aspartame taste, and others will experience a very chemical aftertaste for other sweeteners, but the majority of the market doesn't.

          [1]: https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/38/5/379/360864

          • Rinzler89 14 days ago
            >You're just unlucky.

            Story of my life.

            • Zdechlak 14 days ago
              On the contrary, I think we are extremely lucky for not being able to stomach aspartame.
        • mnau 14 days ago
          It's just how much you are used to it/individual preferences. Same thing as with any other taste, e.g. spicy food.

          To me, sugar drinks feel displeasing. Aspartame doesn't taste like sugar, but it's sweet and that's fine. Most of the taste is the sour one from CO2, citric acid and phosphoric acid anyway.

        • Zanfa 14 days ago
          Same here. It's not even the difference in sweetness, it's just the disgusting aftertaste that lingers forever. I've never gotten how people can drink Coke Zero voluntarily. Too bad they only sell caffeine-free Coke Zero and not the caffeine-free regular where I live, so I gave it another chance not long ago, but noped out after the first sip. It's undrinkable.

          Though I prefer actual sugar, some low-sugar drinks use stevia, which doesn't have the same drinking-chemical-runoff taste of aspartame.

        • Wolfenstein98k 14 days ago
          The aspartame is the ass-part-ta-me.
        • ekimekim 14 days ago
          Yeah this is really starting to cause problems as things like this sugar tax push companies into adding sweetener to their "normal" versions. I now can't simply buy a Coke and know it will taste like Coke - I need to inspect the packaging and check if it will taste disgusting or not.

          It's fine that they exist but presenting them as being full sugar when they aren't is false advertising.

      • shzhdbi09gv8ioi 14 days ago
        I referred to the sugar alcohol xylitol, not aspartame.
        • jeroenhd 14 days ago
          I've never seen a soft drink sweetened with Xylitol. Is this a store brand thing? Most soft drinks I encounter seem to be sweetened by a combination of aspartame and acesulfame K.

          Xylitol seems to be common in candy (especially chewing gum) and deserts, but I don't think that's relevant to a soda tax.

          Perhaps you know of a commercial soft drink sweetened with xylitol that I don't?

      • imadierich 14 days ago
        [dead]
    • ZeroGravitas 14 days ago
      Your article makes no claims either way as to whether non-sugar sweeteners are more or less healthy than sugar.

      I believe the general consensus is that they are healthier (but like vapes and cigarettes if you can avoid both from the start or use the harm reduction one to taper off entirely you're winning) so why are you trying to suggest otherwise without evidence?

    • rsynnott 14 days ago
      This is about soft drinks (that's all the levy applies to). In 99% of cases the substitute is aspartame. I don't think it's ever xylitol, is it? That's normally used to substitute for small amounts of sugar, not the huge quantities found in soft drinks. The digestive effects of that much xylitol would be unpleasant.
    • scotty79 14 days ago
      It won't give you obesity the way sugar will. And obesity causes way more than heart issues.
  • hacker_88 14 days ago
    Here's what the impacted citizens have to say. https://youtu.be/5IP2Go7LHQA
  • mg 14 days ago
    Next: Carbon Tax
    • ZeroGravitas 14 days ago
      Pretty much the whole world already has carbon pricing.

      USA is the major outlier and they have it at the sub-federal level.

      The level will rise over time but it's already been effective in many domains, the UK phase out of coal for example.

      https://carbonpricingdashboard.worldbank.org/

  • readthenotes1 14 days ago
    I've been saying for years that I will take health care as a serious name when they start reducing added sugars.

    I guess the UK has health care.

  • ZeroGravitas 14 days ago
    The Boris Johnston government tried to hide a government report on the succes of this tax as, like many in this forum, his part of the party is heavily influenced by US corporate propaganda ( sometimes misleadingly called "libertarianism")and the success of popular taxes isn't politically correct for them.
  • sublinear 14 days ago
    Is this how we want to do this? Taxes... really?

    We should strongly question why this is the most effective means rather than blindly pursuing that it works and digging ourselves a deeper hole.

    • YurgenJurgensen 14 days ago
      In a country with taxpayer-funded healthcare, taxing things which make people unhealthy is just basic economics. The only problem with this tax is that it doesn’t go far enough. There’s definitely other product categories it could apply to.
      • TimedToasts 14 days ago
        If single-payer healthcare means that I have to now monitor my - city - county - state - federal entities to see if they will be levying individual food taxes... I don't know - I don't want to have to do that. That is just making life even more exhausting than it already is.
      • sublinear 14 days ago
        That's precisely why healthcare shouldn't be taxpayer funded. It's a total outage.

        There needs to be a separation of concerns, and do I really need to give a history lesson why taxing the disadvantaged is not a long term solution? History must repeat, but almost always from ignorance, huh?

        • xen0 14 days ago
          Ok, so who is paying for health care?

          Because it isn't the 'disadvantaged', many of whom are going to need it.

          • sublinear 14 days ago
            I think there are more poor than you imagine. Can you provide solid numbers how this rectangle is constructed?
            • xen0 14 days ago
              The largest forms of tax revenue in the UK are, in order:

              * Income Tax

              * National Insurance

              * VAT

              * Corporation Tax

              In terms of amounts received, the first is by far the largest and is overwhelmingly paid by 'higher earners'. The top 50 % pay over 90% of it. The top 1% pay ~30% of it.

              National Insurance is less progressive. I would argue that should change but it is what it is.

              I can't argue against VAT being regressive, but breakdown of 'amount of VAT paid by income' isn't available.

        • lupusreal 14 days ago
          > do I really need to

          Please do make your best argument for why taxing horribly unhealthy junk foods will actually harm poor people more than it helps. No sense holding back and merely threatening to make that argument. Do you figure that expensive cola will cause famine or something? I'm eager to know.

        • robertjpayne 14 days ago
          What?!? You argue disadvantaged shouldn’t be taxed but argue they should be on the hook for their own healthcare? Insanity.
    • smoothbran 14 days ago
      If you're allergic to the word tax, then think of it more as a fee. If you want to sell a soda in the UK that is greater than X% sugar, you pay an additional, relatively small, fee. There are a lot of externalities from having an unhealthy populace, this fee can help to counter that.
      • johnisgood 14 days ago
        > this fee can help to counter that

        Can it really?

        • dluan 14 days ago
          yes this is very basic economics. this is literally the "draw a supply and demand curve" example and intro 101 economics classes talking about elasticity and substitution. or you can model it using elementary game theory.
          • johnisgood 14 days ago
            so substitution effects and regulatory arbitrage counts?
            • dluan 14 days ago
              you might not know, but the science on this method is settled. economists have run so many trials and experiments on this.
              • johnisgood 14 days ago
                That is not what I am asking. I am asking if we can say "sugar consumption halved" just because both consumers and producers found ways to circumvent the tax, e.g. consumers bought sugary drinks from neighboring areas with lower or no taxes, or producers reformulated their products in ways that technically avoid the tax but do not necessarily result in a healthier product.
      • sublinear 14 days ago
        Why in the hell would anyone need to pay a tax for this is my question. Sounds like a racket to me. What's next?
        • xen0 14 days ago
          How else does a state apply pressure? The health implications are real; this stuff was cheap and available and market forces kept them there.

          Cigarettes and alcohol are heavily taxed. A similar racket?

          • _g6gm 14 days ago
            Yes, similar racket. Nothing you can say justifies more tax.
            • chrisfowles 14 days ago
              So you're of the opinion that people who engage in voluntary activities for personal pleasure that put a higher burden on the health system, that those who are more wise about their choices have to use, should not have to pay thier way?

              Or are you of the opinion that someone should be denied emergency medical care because they had some sodas on the regular?

              • sublinear 14 days ago
                You're missing the point. Those who pursue voluntary activities that "burden the health system" don't "pay their way".

                Those who pay are everyone else. Healthcare t's a tragedy of the commons unlike other taxes where it's more difficult to abuse the common resource such as roads and other infrastructure.

                • actionfromafar 14 days ago
                  Roads are frequently built on the expense of the many to the benefit of the few.
                • xen0 14 days ago
                  So what are you for?
            • Mordisquitos 14 days ago
              Of course! I mean, yeah, sure, taxes on unhealthy products may increase the average health of a population, which results in reduced healthcare costs, greater economic productivity by reducing worker sickness, and may save thousands of life-years across the population and increase their quality of life. But does that really justify the state taking a percentage of the price I pay for a pack of cigarettes?
              • _g6gm 14 days ago
                More more more more moooooooore comrade! Take it all, everything! Don't subsidise better options, just take MOOOOOOOORE!
                • Tade0 14 days ago
                  So your gripe is with the type of state intervention?

                  Non-sugary foods and drinks are already heavily subsidized - like all agriculture - and that's something necessary to maintain food security. People still choose the unhealthy stuff.

        • jowea 14 days ago
          Taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sin_tax
          • sublinear 14 days ago
            And yet many alcoholic products are full of sugar and a majority of adults all around the world are alcoholics.

            I'm not disagreeing we have problems, but my original question was why the solution is a tax. It's very clear who that benefits and it's also very clear those same people control marketing and education. This is insanity.

            • trgn 14 days ago
              > a majority of adults all around the world are alcoholics

              there's no way that can be true right?

              And isn't alcohol already taxed a lot for the same reason?

            • JumpCrisscross 14 days ago
              > my original question was why the solution is a tax

              Because it works. Source: TFA.

            • Moldoteck 14 days ago
              this just means taxes are too low, not that taxes don't work. In a normal way the tax for these should offset the healthcare burden that these produce in treating diseases/accidents caused by alcohol/tobacco consumption. The same way a sugar tax should at least cover all govt diabetes expenditure, but there are other factors that can be covered too.
            • rsynnott 14 days ago
              > a majority of adults all around the world are alcoholics.

              ... Wait, how are you defining 'alcoholic'?

              Even by the 'regularly exceeds recommended intake' definition (which most medical professionals would not read as 'alcoholic' on its own, btw), this is not true.

        • waciki 14 days ago
          You're not replying to OP

          > There are a lot of externalities from having an unhealthy populace, this fee can help to counter that.

          • skatebear 14 days ago
            Is this tax sized to cover for that externalities or the amount is decided in other basis (likely to maximize government revenue)?

            Is the collected money exclusively used to counter the externalities or is the spending left to the discretion of the government?

            I'm asking from ignorance, but if the answer of any of those questions is no then the purpose of the tax is not to make up for the externalities.

            • rsynnott 14 days ago
              > Is this tax sized to cover for that externalities

              No, nothing like it. The final costs to the state of excessive sugar consumption are _vast_. This levy is primarily to discourage people from consuming loads of sugar.

              > Is the collected money exclusively used to counter the externalities

              While I don't know, I'd be very surprised. That sort of bucketed approach to tax collection/use is _extremely_ inefficient; the only place it can possibly be justified is social insurance.

        • andylynch 14 days ago
          Let’s do alcohol and tobacco. Oh wait, we’ve been doing that for centuries. As for why, most people _like_ a functioning government.
    • frereubu 14 days ago
      It's not good enough to just ask questions like that - what alternatives are there? The information that too much sugar is bad for you isn't exactly hidden away, yet rates of obesity, tooth decay and diabetes are still going up.
      • olalonde 14 days ago
        What if we added some sort of additive to the sugary drinks that made people become fat and get tooth decay, wouldn't that dissuade them? (/s fwiw, I don't think there's a "solution", people should be free to mess with their health)
      • sublinear 14 days ago
        > It's not good enough to just ask questions like that - what alternatives are there?

        Strongly disagree. That's the entire point of these kinds of questions.

        • sirtaj 14 days ago
          Without a counter-argument it just becomes a statement of faith, of the "it's so obvious that god exists that I don't have to prove it" variety. You're entitled to your opinion, but expecting others to take your word for its value isn't going to get you anywhere.
    • ollybee 14 days ago
      Yes absolutely. It's not a tax aimed at consumers, or even raising revenue. It's to incentivize manufacturers to reformulate their drinks to be less harmful and seems to have worked. An alternative might be a straight ban on high sugar drinks which seems blunt and less fair response.
    • CalRobert 14 days ago
      How else would you do it? Is it bad we tax cigarettes too?

      I’m open to the argument that it -is- bad, actually, but a tax seems like a reasonable approach if you want people to drink less sugar.

    • paulluuk 14 days ago
      I doubt anyone is "blindly pursuing" this. There are many alternatives, but they all have their own downsides:

      1. Prohibiting products that have sugar content above a certain percentage.

      2. Asking the industry nicely to please favor children's health over profits.

      3. Instead of taxing, giving subsidies to products that are "healthy alternatives".

      4. Education campaigns telling children and parents to "say no to unhealthy food".

      I'm sure there's even more. I don't like taxing unhealthy products, because it creates this weird incentive for selling more of it for the tax gains. Also, products like soy milk are taxed while cow milk is untaxed, despite cow milk being much less healthy than soy milk. But given these four alternatives, I still think taxes are the best way to do it, although I'd love to hear better alternatives.

      • scotty79 14 days ago
        > despite cow milk being much less healthy than soy milk

        How could that possibly be true? One is a fluid that exists in similar forms for millions of years in order to supply all growing mammal infants with all the nutrients they need ... and the other is just some plant matter from a random cheaply cultivable plant (by currently dominant species at current tech level) dispersed in water.

        Is soy milk healthier in a sense that no food is healthier than too much food for a person who has western diet?

    • tene80i 14 days ago
      Who says it’s blindly pursuing anything, or indeed a hole of any depth?

      It works because it increases the price, which reduces demand and leads suppliers to change recipes.

      What is your concern?

    • petepete 14 days ago
      It works and it works quickly. What else would?
      • sublinear 14 days ago
        [flagged]
        • petepete 14 days ago
          You answered it yourself. Parents don't know/care, their kids bare the brunt.

          Taxing isn't ideal and is a blunt instrument at best - but I'm not convinced there's a better (working) alternative.

          • ollybee 14 days ago
            I don't think it is a blunt instrument, in fact I'd say the complete opposite. It's been a nudge of industry in a direction that's better for society, in a way that keeps that playing field level for different manufacturers, reduced their overall tax burden and not cost consumers anything. All this while avoiding any harsh ban, you can still buy high sugar drinks if you wish.
      • GrassTheKayaks 14 days ago
        [flagged]
        • padjo 14 days ago
          Wow this is psychotic even for a HN comment.
        • petepete 14 days ago
          No sensible solutions then, par for the course!
        • YurgenJurgensen 14 days ago
          Think about how you’d actually implement that policy. It’d be political suicide. I can see the ‘literally killing children’ headlines already. No law can change anything if it can’t make it through the Commons.
        • sublinear 14 days ago
          [flagged]
    • 4ndrewl 14 days ago
      How else might you persuade companies operating in a competitive marketplace to change the makeup of their products? Ask them nicely?
    • drekipus 14 days ago
      In absence of a big stick, yes!

      People aren't going to will themselves to personal responsibility

    • xen0 14 days ago
      Would you prefer an outright ban?
    • Skeime 14 days ago
      I think a tax or levy is somewhat reasonable, but then should go towards paying for sugar-induced costs (mostly healthcare, I'd assume).
    • Moldoteck 14 days ago
      taxes are the most efficient instrument a govt can use. You decrease taxes for things you want to grow in consumption/use and you increase taxes for things you want to reduce production/consumption. Do you want faster transition to renewables and others from fossils? Increase taxes for fossil related stuff and decrease them for production & import of renewable related stuff. Same thing goes for electric cars, same things goes for electric/simple bikes. The only problem I see is low tax for artificial sweeteners. It would be nice to both limit the max quantity for sweeteners we know and limit the sweetness for all others to avoid high concentration of unknown stuff
    • elefanten 14 days ago
      You should take a breath and make your complete argument somewhere all at once. Your reactive fragmented answers up and down the tree of comments are still terminally unintelligible, as of this comment.
    • rsynnott 14 days ago
      There are, broadly, four routes to getting people to stop using dangerous consumer products:

      - Public education: This is easiest, but not particularly effective. Doctors, and more recently governments, have been telling people to eat less sugar for about a century; meanwhile, in most places, the level of sugar consumption has only increased.

      - Taxes/levies: This is thought to be somewhat effective (in particular it seems to have worked in many places for tobacco to some extent), and it has the great advantage that it's _easy to do_; governments typically have a lot of latitude over what they tax and it's quite difficult for the industry to resist through legal means (they can still lobby, of course).

      - Ban or restrict advertising: This seems to have been effective for tobacco and maybe alcohol, but certainly in Britain it's currently seen as a bit culture war-y (Sadiq Khan banned ads for unhealthy food on TfL, apparently with some promising results, but the right-wing media had a complete nervous breakdown) and is open to legal challenges. Some other countries, with different political environments, are in the process of doing this for certain problem food products.

      - Ban the product: This is practically impossible, even for products which are known to be extremely harmful like tobacco. Just a political death sentence, not worth pursuing.

      Given the above, they probably did about the best they could.

    • knapcio 14 days ago
      I'm close to being libertarian in many cases; however, I think that a tax may be a good way to quickly address this issue. I also believe that the money received from this tax should be directly spent on educating the public about why it's bad to consume too much sugar. The tax should be gradually decreased until people's habits change.
      • robertlagrant 14 days ago
        > The tax should be gradually decreased until people's habits change

        I don't think people's habits will change irreversibly. If you remove the tax, a new cool drink (think Monster when it came out, but for kids) will sweep tiktok, and all the kids will want it.

        > the money received from this tax should be directly spent on educating the public about why it's bad to consume too much sugar

        Sadly I don't think taxes end up working this way for long. They might or might not start by doing this, but then they just stay forever.

    • netsharc 14 days ago
      Oh no, taxes bad!

      Probably because we've all been programmed with the neoliberal agenda[1] of less money spent is better (for food, for cars, on taxes, like you've been programmed).

      Norway has had steep taxes for ICE cars for ages, and when EVs came along they were taxed very low, and to cite this source [2], 80% of new cars sold are now EV...

      [1] https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-...

      [2] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/...

    • Bancakes 14 days ago
      they’ve been putting made up dietary pyramids in schools for decades, and it hasn’t worked.
    • alias_neo 14 days ago
      Can't have those poor people having sugar in their diet, it's bad for them.

      Sugar is for the rich.

      • spacebanana7 14 days ago
        There’s actually a paradoxical situation in most developed countries where the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be overweight.

        Making unhealthy food too expensive for poor people is a blunt instrument of course, but it does have an empirical case.

        https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.j163#

        • rightbyte 14 days ago
          Unhealthy food is allready way more expansive than cooking your own. I guess the main culprit is lack of energy and time to cook, not the price.
          • alias_neo 14 days ago
            I disagree when it comes to the UK. Healthy food; fresh fruit, vegetables and meat is significantly more expensive than processed food.

            There are/were plenty of British YouTuber's doing "how cheap can you eat" meals through COVID and the cost of living crisis, they started at ~£1 for a bare-bones meal for one, they were at ~£1.50 last I looked; that's hopefully improving with the recent falls in inflation, but still and issue for many.

            Of course the same demographic who can't afford the ingredients to cook their own healthy meals can often also not afford the time to prepare them either; due to working long hours, not being able to afford care for their children, etc.

            Food banks are very much on the rise in many parts of the UK[0] and we have millions of children in poverty[1], a significant and heart breaking statistic for such a country.

            [0] https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end... [1] https://cpag.org.uk/child-poverty/poverty-facts-and-figures

          • actionfromafar 14 days ago
            Time is a kind of a price too. Also, look up "food desert" some time. It's real.
        • alias_neo 14 days ago
          I think everyone missed the sarcasm my comment was dripping with, British humour I guess. I'll take the downvotes.

          I understand the issues with sugar, I have no arguments with it, but it is, as you say, a blunt instrument. Sadly, the opposite case; healthy food, is also too expensive for the same demographic this affects; that's a separate and independent problem though, and the evidence in OP seems to suggest the tax is (somewhat) effective, so, again, no arguments from me.

          EDIT: To be clear, I'm talking about in the UK when I talk about a demographic.

  • _g6gm 14 days ago
    Mainstream media pushing "more tax is actually good"? Well, I'm shocked sir.
    • gwd 14 days ago
      It's a market-based solution to a market-based problem.

      A classic problem which make markets inefficient is "externalities" -- the cost is artificially lowered because some of that cost is "externalized" away from the people selling the product. This artificially low cost causes the markets to allocate resources in a globally non-optimal manner.

      One solution is flat regulation -- you can't have more than a certain amount of sugar in your drink. But that's unreasonable and unpopular.

      Taxing is a market-based solution: it forces some of the external cost to be borne by the person selling it. This allows the market to allocate resources based on the actual cost, rather than the artificially low cost, while still maintaining the flexibility and diversity of the market, rather than having to impose regulation.

    • asmor 14 days ago
      Do you oppose tobacco tax - nicotine and tobacco smoke being considered almost universally bad - on the same grounds, or is sugar different?
      • roenxi 14 days ago
        That question is actually leaning towards quite a bad argument, similar to a slippery-slope. Everyone has a threshold somewhere dividing acceptable and other activities. Someone having different standards for different substances is irrelevant. It is similar in character to someone saying a sin tax on sugar is the same as a sin tax on meat. Both in consequence, evidence of harm and in public acceptability those things are clearly different.

        On this specific topic someone drinking sugar drinks is clearly less harmful than someone smoking, because sugar drinks have a strictly personal impact. desiredState having or not having a different standard for tobacco doesn't cast a shadow on his opinions on sugar taxes.

        • AntoniusBlock 14 days ago
          > because sugar drinks have a strictly personal impact.

          Not in this case, as the UK's NHS is tax-payer funded.

          • roenxi 14 days ago
            An individual could sit placidly in the sun gazing out on a field of flowers and arguably be causing taxpayers harm because they aren't exercising and otherwise bettering their physical health (or maybe the pollen is increasing their risk of an expensive lung cancer, who knows).

            There is more of an argument against taxpayer funds for the NHS than anything to do with sugar drinks in that observation. It is inescapably arbitrary what unhealthy behaviours are being subsidised vs. taxed.

            • AntoniusBlock 14 days ago
              >in that observation.

              That's because your observation is absurd and not grounded in reality. The reality is that obesity rates are too high in the UK. Most of these people overconsume sugary foods and overly processed foods. This in turn puts stress on the NHS, which affects all tax-payers in the UK so it's not a `strictly personal impact'. Overconsumption of sugar leads to measurably worse health outcomes than sitting in a field breathing pollen. The tax is not arbitrary.

              • roenxi 14 days ago
                It isn't absurd, inactivity is a real and well known problem. Eg, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45408017 .
                • mckn1ght 14 days ago
                  You have to prioritize the issues, you can’t tackle them all at once, and inability to address lower priority issues should not be used as an excuse to avoid addressing higher priority ones.

                  High consumption of sugar is a worse problem than sedentary habits. “You can’t outrun a bad diet.”

        • asmor 14 days ago
          The question was aimed at finding out if their objection was to taxes in general. Which seems to be the case, since they called me a communist!
      • desiredState 14 days ago
        [flagged]
  • Wolfenstein98k 14 days ago
    Correlation. The article notes sugar consumption was dropping for over a decade before the tax. It is also dropping over the same period in comparable non-tax countries.

    "Science journalism" is often a net-negative in terms of informing the public.

    • elefanten 14 days ago
      Was sugar consumption halving every year for over a decade? Whatever the mechanism (seemingly up for debate), a halving post-tax is an outsized change.