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BACKGROUND: Taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) have been implemented globally to reduce the burden of cardiometabolic diseases by disincentivizing consumption through increased prices (e.g., 1 peso/litre tax in Mexico) or incentivizing industry reformulation to reduce SSB sugar content (e.g., tiered structure of the United Kingdom [UK] Soft Drinks Industry Levy [SDIL]). In Germany, where no tax on SSBs is enacted, the health and economic impact of SSB taxation using the experience from internationally implemented tax designs has not been evaluated. The objective of this study was to estimate the health and economic impact of national SSBs taxation scenarios in Germany. METHODS AND FINDINGS: In this modelling study, we evaluated a 20% ad valorem SSB tax with/without taxation of fruit juice (based on implemented SSB taxes and recommendations) and a tiered tax (based on the UK SDIL) in the German adult population aged 30 to 90 years from 2023 to 2043. We developed a microsimulation model (IMPACTNCD Germany) that captures the demographics, risk factor profile and epidemiology of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke in the German population using the best available evidence and national data. For each scenario, we estimated changes in sugar consumption and associated weight change. Resulting cases of cardiometabolic disease prevented/postponed and related quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and economic impacts from healthcare (medical costs) and societal (medical, patient time, and productivity costs) perspectives were estimated using national cost and health utility data. Additionally, we assessed structural uncertainty regarding direct, body mass index (BMI)-independent cardiometabolic effects of SSBs and cross-validated results with an independently developed cohort model (PRIMEtime). We found that SSB taxation could reduce sugar intake in the German adult population by 1 g/day (95%-uncertainty interval [0.05, 1.65]) for a 20% ad valorem tax on SSBs leading to reduced consumption through increased prices (pass-through of 82%) and 2.34 g/day (95%-UI [2.32, 2.36]) for a tiered tax on SSBs leading to 30% reduction in SSB sugar content via reformulation. Through reductions in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CVD), 106,000 (95%-UI [57,200, 153,200]) QALYs could be gained with a 20% ad valorem tax and 192,300 (95%-UI [130,100, 254,200]) QALYs with a tiered tax. Respectively, €9.6 billion (95%-UI [4.7, 15.3]) and €16.0 billion (95%-UI [8.1, 25.5]) costs could be saved from a societal perspective over 20 years. Impacts of the 20% ad valorem tax were larger when additionally taxing fruit juice (252,400 QALYs gained, 95%-UI [176,700, 325,800]; €11.8 billion costs saved, 95%-UI [€6.7, €17.9]), but impacts of all scenarios were reduced when excluding direct health effects of SSBs. Cross-validation with PRIMEtime showed similar results. Limitations include remaining uncertainties in the economic and epidemiological evidence and a lack of product-level data. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, we found that SSB taxation in Germany could help to reduce the national burden of noncommunicable diseases and save a substantial amount of societal costs. A tiered tax designed to incentivize reformulation of SSBs towards less sugar might have a larger population-level health and economic impact than an ad valorem tax that incentivizes consumer behaviour change only through increased prices.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS medicine

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