New WHO study on sugar-sweetened beverage taxes

05 April 2022

A recent WHO European Region study published in March 2022 evaluates the state of play associated with national sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes across Europe. The ultimate goal of this study was to understand factors that support SSB taxes at national level in order to identify successful policy paths for other countries of the region. 

Taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) has  notably been recommended by the WHO as part of government efforts to prevent the spread noncommunicable diseases (‎NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes and obesity. Yet, the uptake of SSB taxes is currently limited, with only 10 of the 53 member states of the WHO European region implementing them. 

The study comes to the following conclusions: 

  • SSB tax design and administration have universal features but also require adaptation to a country’s legislative, fiscal, economic and health context. For instance, all taxes assessed were levied on industry rather than consumers, but the type of tax differed. 
  • Governments are able to adapt the tax design, base and rate in line with evidence and experience, following initial implementation. 
  • Design and implementation of successful SSB taxes are characterised by close and sustained collaboration between finance and health policy-makers. 

The study interestingly points to the importance of both academic and CSO support in countering industry opposition and fostering SSB tax adoption. Such support could allow the spread of a positive public narrative regarding taxation by emphasizing the correlation between SSB and health problem occurrence and how taxation can contribute to addressing NCDs.

For years, SAFE has been conducting projects and advocacy actions aimed at persuading the agrofood industry to lower sugar quantities in their products, all-the-while sensitizing children on recommended sugar intake levels and on the hazards of sugar overconsumption. Fore more information, check out our actions on sugar as well as our Sugar Project.