The taxation of unhealthy energy-dense foods (EDFs) and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs): An overview of patterns observed in the policy content and policy context of 13 case studies
SourceHealth Policy, 121, 8, (2017), pp. 887-894
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectRadboudumc 18: Healthcare improvement science RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences
Taxation of energy-dense foods (EDFs) and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is increasingly of interest as a novel public health and fiscal policy instrument. However academic interest in policy determinants has remained limited. We address this paucity by comparing the policy content and policy context of EDF/SSB taxes witnessed in 13 case studies, of which we assume the tax is sufficiently high to induce behavioural change. The observational and non-randomized studies published on our case studies seem to indicate that the EDF/SSB taxes under investigation generally had the desired effects on prices and consumption of targeted products. The revenue collection of EDF/SSB taxes is minimal yet significant. Administrative practicalities in tax levying are important, possibly explaining why a drift towards solely taxing SSBs can be noted, as these can be demarcated more easily, with levies seemingly increasing in more recent case studies. Despite the growing body of evidence suggesting that EDF/SSB taxes have the potential to improve health, fiscal needs more often seem to lay their policy foundation rather than public health advocacy. A remarkable amount of conservative/liberal governments have adopted these taxes, although in many cases revenues are earmarked for benefits compensating regressive income effects. Governments voice diverse policy rationales, ranging from explicitly describing the tax as a public health instrument, to solely explicating revenue raising.
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