British Columbia

Health experts advocate for tax on sugary drinks

Health experts from around the world are in Victoria this weekend advocating for a tax on sugary drinks in Canada.

A 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks could save nearly 8,000 Canadian lives a year, according to experts

Health advocates are urging government to take steps to limit consumption of sugary drinks. (Sam Hodgson/Reuters)

Several cities and countries have implemented a tax on sugary beverages and at a public panel hosted by the University of Victoria this weekend, health advocates will propose that Canadian governments do the same.

Patti-Jean Naylor is a professor at the university's School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education and is one of the organizers of Taxing Sugary Drinks: Should We or Shouldn't We? 

Naylor said research has proven sugary drinks are the number one source of sugar in Canadian diets. 

Consumption highest among youth

Naylor told CBC's All Points West host, Robyn Burns, that the average Canadian adult consumes 227 millilitres of sugary drinks, including 100 per cent fruit juice, daily. 

The average consumption for Canadian youth is more than twice the consumption of adults.

According to Naylor, youth drink approximately 578 millilitres daily, which far exceeds the sugar intake recommendations suggested by the World Health Organization.

For children under eight, Naylor says the intake is an estimated 326 millilitres.

Tax could save almost 8,000 lives a year

Excessive sugar intake contributes to obesity and chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes.

Naylor is advocating for a 20 per cent tax that studies show would avert approximately 8,000 deaths in Canada a year.

The proposed tax would be levied at the manufacturer and be transferred to the cost of the product on the shelf. 

This would have "a substantive impact on our health," said Naylor, who argued that if prices go up, consumption will come down. 

Tax already in place in many places

Taxes on sugary drinks have been successfully adopted in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Barbados, Chile, France and several American cities.

The event coincides with The International Society of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity's annual meeting that is expected to draw health experts from around the world to Victoria. 

With files from All Points West

To hear the complete interview click on the audio labelled UVic panel debates tax for sugary drinks.