The scientists estimate that implementing a tax on sweetened beverages would prevent around 100,000 cases of heart disease per year

The scientists estimate that implementing a tax on sweetened beverages would prevent around 100,000 cases of heart disease per year

A group of scientists in the US has made a fresh call for a tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks in the country.

The report by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), San Francisco General Hospital & Trauma Center, and Columbia University analysed the effects of a potential nationwide tax on sugary drinks. The findings, published today (10 January), call for a 'penny-per-ounce' tax that the scientists believe would prevent heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and "save billions in healthcare costs".

The group estimates that implementing a tax on sweetened beverages would prevent around 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 deaths per year.

"You would also prevent 240,000 cases of diabetes per year," said associate professor of medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo. "Our hope is that these types of numbers are useful for policy makers to weigh decisions."

In October, France's General Assembly voted in favour of a tax hike on added sugar soft drinks and a lesser rise on drinks containing sweeteners. But, despite a number of calls by health organisations in the US for such a tax, no such move has been introduced yet.

Bernstein analyst Steve Powers believes that the likelihood of a soft drinks tax being implemented in the US at a national level is "not very likely".

"It is still a very difficult political prospect," Powers told just-drinks. "It is hugely unpopular amongst the people and vigorously lobbied against by the soft drinks industry. There hasn't been a lot of success in an implementation so far. There have been various prospects floated at all levels of government in recent years and some of the high profile ones like New York City and Philadelphia didn't go anywhere."

Powers believes that a tax is more likely to be implemented at a local or state level, but only if health trends continue and "there are no alternative beverage options being developed".

"As a near-term risk it is something that we monitor but not something we are overly concerned about. It's a hard political sell right now," he added.