Corporate wellness insights

Tax Sugary Drinks: An Effective Strategy?

Posted by Matthew on 10.26.2016

tax sugary drinksThe next time you find yourself craving something sweet, blame your brain. We’re wired that way. Unless our ancient ancestors were brave enough to disturb a bee hive, they never experienced anything like refined sugar. Today, global consumption of sugar is forecast to top 174 million metric tons over the next two years. Some cities have even moved to tax sugary drinks in an effort to fight obesity and diabetes.

Are Beverage Taxes Effective?

Several U.S. cities have already begun to tax sugary drinks, and the World Health Organization is explicitly urging nations around the world to do the same. It’s a controversial idea: New York’s soda tax, championed by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was eventually struck down by the courts. But a preliminary study of Berkeley’s beverage tax appears to show positive results, so the jury is still out.

What Can Employers Do?

Tax policy aside, there are steps workplaces can take to encourage employees to make healthier choices. In 2014, Johns Hopkins Medicine launched a Healthy Beverage Initiative, which set out three simple objectives:

  • Only healthier beverages would be served at Johns Hopkins-sponsored meetings and events
  • More healthy beverage choices would be available, and sugar-sweetened beverages would be available only in smaller quantities (12 ounces or less).
  • Healthier beverages would cost less per ounce than sugar-sweetened beverages

The Hopkins initiative also included a color-coded system (green, yellow, and red) to help employees evaluate beverages. Their goal wasn’t to ban sodas altogether, but rather to encourage healthier alternatives and provide education.

How do you think a healthy beverage initiative would work at your company? Let us know in the comments section below.

Image credit: In coke, I trust by Soumyadeep Paul