Date: 30 April 2018
Taxing sweet snacks could lead to greater reductions in the amount of sugar purchased than similar tax levies on sugar-sweetened drinks, according to new research funded by the NIHR.
The research, funded by NIHR’s Policy Research Programme, estimated that adding a 10% tax on sweet snacks such as chocolate, confectionery, cakes and biscuits could reduce purchases by around 7%. This is a similar outcome to taxing sugar-sweetened drinks, where previous research suggests a 10% price rise could reduce purchases by 6–8%.
Such a price rise could also have knock-on effects on the sales of other food items, reducing the purchase of soft-drinks (by 0.6-0.8%), biscuits and cakes (1.2%), and savoury snacks (1.6%).
The study, published in BMJ Open, is the first to provide a direct analysis of the relationship between price increases and consumer demand for snack foods across different income groups.
Co-author Professor Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health at University of Oxford and Theme Lead at the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care Oxford, said: “It’s impossible to study the direct effects of a tax on snack food on consumer behaviour until such policies are introduced, but these estimates show the likely impact of changes in the price.
“These snacks are high in sugar but often high in fat too and very energy dense, so their consumption can increase the risk of obesity. This research suggests that extending fiscal policies to include sweet snacks could be an important boost to public health, by reducing purchasing and hence consumption of these foods, particularly in low-income households.”
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