The United Nations health agency moves away from the call to tax sugary drinks



GENEVA (AP) – An independent panel of the World Health Organization moved away from the call of the UN health agency two years ago to tax sugary drinks, in a new report on diseases such as cancer, obesity and diabetes that some experts called being "notoriously lazy."

International health experts said the decision was especially disconcerting, given the growing worldwide obesity crisis and previous attempts by WHO to curb sugar consumption.

drinks loaded as soft drinks and sports drinks as a way to fight against obesity and diabetes. Back then, he said that a 20 percent increase in such beverages would drastically reduce consumption.

But in a report published on Friday, although the WHO recommended taxes on tobacco and alcohol, the experts deliberately abandoned any recommendation to tax sugary drinks. Instead, experts wrote that, with respect to taxes on sugar, "some points of view were contradictory and could not be resolved."

Dr. Sania Nishtar, co-chair of the newly created independent commission on noncommunicable diseases behind the report, said most of its 26 members supported a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. But a commissioner – which she did not identify – hampered the drafting of a stronger language, mainly on the effectiveness of the sugar tax that has been introduced in some countries.

"The introduction of the tax (on sugary drinks) is quite recent, and the data we have is related to a decrease in consumption," Nishtar told reporters at WHO headquarters.

She said that "the objection was that … we should not make a bold recommendation." He said that the commissioner did not believe that there was still enough health data on this, a point that was later disputed by the Director General of the WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus.

  The President of Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez, makes a gesture during his statement at the launch of the WHO High Level Independent Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases (CND) report at the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva , Switzerland, Friday, June 1, 2018. (Salvatore Di Nolfi / Keystone via AP)

President of Uruguay Tabaré Vázquez gestures during his statement as part of the launch of the report of the WHO High Level Independent Commission on Diseases Not Transmissible (CND) at the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Salvatore Di Nolfi / Keystone via AP)

While the sweetened beverage industry has spoken out strongly against such taxes, Nishtar said he was not aware of any industry pressure on the commissioners.

Instead of exp legally recommending a tax on sugar, WHO leaves those decisions to countries.

"When commitment to the private sector does not contribute to the achievement of public health objectives, governments should use their normative and legislative powers to protect their populations." the report says.

Jack Winkler, a professor emeritus of nutrition policy at the Metropolitan University of London, said there is now convincing evidence that taxing sugary drinks works, citing, among other works, a recent article in the magazine, The BMJ. He said that the recently adopted policies in Britain show that taxing sugar-laden beverages not only stimulated manufacturers to reformulate their products, but "has made healthy choice the cheapest option".

He said the WHO's recognition of progress in combating obesity and another non-communicable disease has been slow makes its refusal to endorse taxes on sugar openly especially unfortunate.

"When WHO does not realize a practical solution that also raises money, it is particularly absurd," he said. [19659016] The president of Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez, left, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on the right, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) pose, during the launch of the report of the High Level Independent Commission of the WHO on Noncommunicable Diseases (CND), at the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Salvatore Di Nolfi / Keystone via AP) "src =" http: //badets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.4020290.1527863460!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_750/ap-image.jpg "/>

The President of Uruguay Tabaré Vázquez, left, and Tedros Adhanom Ghe Breyesus, right, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) pose, during the launch of the report of the WHO High Level Independent Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases (NDC), at the headquarters of the World Health Organization. Health (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, June 1 of 2018. (Salvatore Di Nolfi / Keystone via AP)

In its new report, the WHO also recommended that governments prioritize measures to restrict the advertising of junk food.

"WHO should explore the possibility of establishing a code of conduct on this issue … while recognizing the need for partnerships based on the alignment of interests," the experts wrote.

Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that the failure of the WHO Commission to reach an agreement on taxes on sugar was "difficult to understand".

He pointed out that, since this was the only first report of the WHO expert committee, they could still review their advice in the ater reports.

"It would be very disappointing if this issue were not resolved in your next report," McKee said.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.

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