WHO Panel Nixes Support for Sugary Drink Taxes

Statement of CSPI Senior Scientist Michael F. Jacobson


It is shameful that the new World Health Organization report on preventing non-communicable diseases, such as obesity, did not recommend taxes on sugar drinks. The reason was that there was not a consensus among members of the WHO commission, “despite broad support from many Commissioners,” that such taxes are effective.  In fact, taxes in Mexico, the United Kingdom, and in several cities in the United States have clearly driven down consumption.

One of the commissioners, Ilona Kickbusch, director of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, was quoted in a news article as saying, “Other member states like the United States felt there was not enough evidence on the impact of such taxes and therefore the commission should not recommend them.” 

The U.S. government representative on the commission was Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan of the Department of Health and Human Services. I’m not surprised that a Trump administration official would torpedo a recommendation that would have offended the soft-drink industry. This is yet another instance of the Trump Administration placing corporate self-interest over the public health.

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