Taxes on soft drinks, alcohol and tobacco are a powerful response to rising rates of chronic diseases

Taxes on soft drinks, alcohol and tobacco are a powerful response to rising rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) worldwide, according to the most comprehensive analysis to date of evidence on expenditure, behaviour and socio-economic status, published today in The Lancet.

Bringing together data from across the globe, the five papers, including one led by The George Institute for Global Health, present strong evidence that taxes on unhealthy products have the potential to produce major health gains among the poorest in society who are disproportionately affected by NCDs. The evidence helps counter fears that such taxes will necessarily disproportionately harm the poor. 

Non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes are responsible for 38 million deaths each year. The Sustainable Development Goal NCD target (SGD 3.4) is to reduce deaths from NCDs by a third by 2030 and promote mental health.

“Non-communicable diseases are a major cause and consequence of poverty worldwide,” says Dr Rachel Nugent, RTI International (Seattle, USA) and Chair of The Lancet Taskforce on NCDs and economics. “Responding to this challenge means big investments to improve health care systems worldwide, but there are immediate and effective tools at our disposal. Taxes on unhealthy products can produce major health gains, and the evidence shows these can be implemented fairly, without disproportionately harming the poorest in society.”

 

Worldwide, non-communicable diseases are major drivers