WHO recommends Estonia to tax dairy drinks, juices

  • 2024-03-25
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - The World Health Organization (WHO) supports the taxation of sweetened beverages in Estonia and has proposed also taxing sweetened dairy drinks and natural juices.

WHO supports the taxation of sweetened beverages because it is one of the most cost-effective interventions in the fight against overweight, obesity, and chronic noncommunicable diseases related to nutrition.

"We support the draft law on beverage tax to reduce the consumption of high-sugar sweetened beverages, especially among their main consumers, namely children. We recommend taxing sweetened beverages because they are not essential for us and contain very few necessary nutrients," WHO noted.

Additionally, WHO recommends considering the taxation of all beverages containing free sugars, which means also taxing sweetened dairy drinks and 100 percent natural juices, as they contain free sugars and their excessive consumption is associated with dental caries, weight gain, an increased risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and various malignancies.

“Even though, for example, sweetened dairy drinks may contain some nutrients such as calcium and protein, the free sugars they contain still encourage overconsumption of calories and are associated with obesity, diabetes, and dental caries,” WHO added.

Moreover, WHO suggests considering linking the tax revenue to a health program, for example, transferring the tax revenue to the Health Insurance Fund to cover medical expenses or allocating it to a program promoting health, including nutrition and physical activity.

WHO proposed that the sugar tax could be linked to inflation and income increases to ensure the tax's impact over a longer period, which helps ensure that as incomes increase, the products do not become more accessible over time.

Furthermore, WHO recommends reviewing whether the tax rates increase the product price sufficiently to ensure that the price for consumers increases by at least 20 percent. If the tax rates in the draft law do not increase the taxed products' price to the consumer by at least 20 percent, WHO suggests implementing higher tax rates to achieve the desired change in behavior, namely a decrease in the consumption of taxed products and a reduction in the sugar content of products by manufacturers.

WHO also believes that the draft law on taxing sweetened beverages should include the quantity of drinks a traveler may bring into the country for personal use from another country, to reduce trading in products brought from other countries and thus avoid tax evasion.