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BMJ. 2013 Oct 31;347:f6189. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f6189.

Overall and income specific effect on prevalence of overweight and obesity of 20% sugar sweetened drink tax in UK: econometric and comparative risk assessment modelling study.

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  • 1British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK.



To model the overall and income specific effect of a 20% tax on sugar sweetened drinks on the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the UK.


Econometric and comparative risk assessment modelling study.


United Kingdom.


Adults aged 16 and over.


A 20% tax on sugar sweetened drinks.


The primary outcomes were the overall and income specific changes in the number and percentage of overweight (body mass index ≥ 25) and obese (≥ 30) adults in the UK following the implementation of the tax. Secondary outcomes were the effect by age group (16-29, 30-49, and ≥ 50 years) and by UK constituent country. The revenue generated from the tax and the income specific changes in weekly expenditure on drinks were also estimated.


A 20% tax on sugar sweetened drinks was estimated to reduce the number of obese adults in the UK by 1.3% (95% credible interval 0.8% to 1.7%) or 180,000 (110,000 to 247,000) people and the number who are overweight by 0.9% (0.6% to 1.1%) or 285,000 (201,000 to 364,000) people. The predicted reductions in prevalence of obesity for income thirds 1 (lowest income), 2, and 3 (highest income) were 1.3% (0.3% to 2.0%), 0.9% (0.1% to 1.6%), and 2.1% (1.3% to 2.9%). The effect on obesity declined with age. Predicted annual revenue was £276m (£272m to £279m), with estimated increases in total expenditure on drinks for income thirds 1, 2, and 3 of 2.1% (1.4% to 3.0%), 1.7% (1.2% to 2.2%), and 0.8% (0.4% to 1.2%).


A 20% tax on sugar sweetened drinks would lead to a reduction in the prevalence of obesity in the UK of 1.3% (around 180,000 people). The greatest effects may occur in young people, with no significant differences between income groups. Both effects warrant further exploration. Taxation of sugar sweetened drinks is a promising population measure to target population obesity, particularly among younger adults.

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