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Soc Sci Med. 2018 Jul;209:111-116. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.05.043. Epub 2018 May 26.

A tax on sugar sweetened beverages in Colombia: Estimating the impact on overweight and obesity prevalence across socio economic levels.

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Instituto de Salud Pública, Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia; International Health Department - Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, United States; School of Medicine, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia. Electronic address:
School of Medicine, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.


Colombia has a high prevalence of overweight (56%) and obesity (19%) among adults and is experiencing a growing trend in the prevalence of associated chronic conditions. Evidence suggests that sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) are associated to overweight/obesity, and that taxes on these beverages could reduce their associated health consequences. This paper assesses the potential effect of different levels of a SSB tax in Colombia on overweight and obesity prevalence. Using peer-reviewed local data on own-price elasticity of SSB, we applied a comparative risk assessment strategy to simulate the effect of the SSB tax on a nationally representative nutritional survey with 7140 adults in 2010 (ENSIN, 2010). Our results varied depending on the tax scenario, pass-through assumption and household socio economic strata (SES). We found that among individuals belonging to lower SES households, the SSB tax would reduce overweight and obesity between 1.5-4.9 and 1.1-2.4 percentage points (p < 0.05), respectively. Among individuals belonging to higher SES households, we found no statistically significant effects on obesity, and a reduction on overweight prevalence between 2.9 and 3.9 percentage points (p < 0.05). In the most conservative scenario (40% pass-through), a tax rate of at least 75 cents of Colombian peso (0.75 COP) per milliliter (24% of the average price) is needed to have statistically significant effects on both overweight and obesity prevalence among lower SES households. The results of this study suggest that a SSB tax could reduce the overweight and obesity prevalence in Colombia, especially among lower SES households. This study shows that SSB taxes have a particularly beneficial effect in the most vulnerable population. Additional social and individual benefits, or individual costs arising from the tax are not assessed in this research, implying that even larger health gains could be observed.


Colombia; Obesity; Overweight; Sugar sweetened beverages; Taxes

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