15 NOVEMBER 2018
A new report from the New Zealand Taxpayer’ Union examines why the taxing of sugar-sweetened beverages around the world has failed to curb obesity
The report – The Bitter Truth: Why don’t sugar taxes work? – responds to the central claim from public health lobbyists that a sugar tax would improve health outcomes and focuses
on the regressive economic effects of sugar taxes.
Taxpayers’ Union Economist Joe Ascroft says “Whatever the good intentions the evidence shows that unfortunately sugar taxes haven’t
actually worked to curb obesity where they have been tried. They fail to deliver meaningful health outcomes, but
consumers still get hurt by the tax – especially low-income households who are disproportionately punished. Promoters of
these taxes claim that the small health benefits are progressive, but the evidence for this is at best mixed.”
“In fact the only thing clear from the evidence is that sugar taxes are good at raising money for the Government – but
the cost falls disproportionately on low income households.”
“There is also no evidence for the existence of a market failure that would justify intervention. Just because you might
find someone else’s behaviour distasteful does not mean the market has failed. Many people simply enjoy drinking
sugar-sweetened beverages and are fully aware of any health consequences.”
“The health lobbyists that campaign for sugar taxes have good intentions but they need to pay attention to the evidence.
Good public policy requires a sound evidence-based approach and we hope this report goes some way to promote that.”