How Many Lives Could a Soda Tax Save?

Note: Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo is director of CTSI's Pre-health Undergraduate Program and co-director of its K Scholars Program. A CTSI career development grant supporting under-represented faculty was among the catalysts that helped Dr. Bibbins-Domingo and her team first conduct research on the link between salt and chronic conditions.

Every year, Americans drink 13.8 billion gallons of soda, fruit punch, sweet tea, sports drinks, and other sweetened beverages — a mass consumption of sugar that is fueling soaring obesity and diabetes rates in the United States. 

Now a group of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (SFGH) and Columbia University have analyzed the effect of a nationwide tax on these sugary drinks.

They estimate slapping a penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages would prevent nearly 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 deaths every year.

“You would also prevent 240,000 cases of diabetes per year,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine and of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF and acting director of the Center for Vulnerable Populations at the UCSF-affiliated SFGH.

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