A new study published in the journal Obesity Reviews finds the answer seems to be “yes”, sugar taxes are working. The analysis showed that the equivalent of a 10% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) is associated with an average of a 10% reduction in beverage purchases and dietary intake of SSBs.
The systematic review and meta-analysis looked at data from 17 studies mainly conducted in the United States, Mexico, France, and Chile which evaluated the effects of taxation on purchases and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, either pre-and post-tax (11 studies), or between taxed versus untaxed jurisdictions (6 studies). This is the largest meta-analysis to date summarizing the outcomes from ‘real-world’ tax evaluation studies, rather than those using economic modeling.
One of the outcomes of implementing sugar taxes is to encourage voluntary reformulation of sugary beverages, which is not captured in studies like this. This means it is possible the taxes are having additional impacts on sugar consumption. For example, in the United Kingdom, over 50% of soft drink manufacturers have reduced sugar content of their products between March 2016 and April 2018 in response to tax legislation.
More data continues to be generated as time passes and more regions implement these types of taxes, meaning it will be easier to get an accurate answer about how effective they are time goes on. As the study demonstrates, emerging data is looking promising. A World Health Organization report concluded that “the evidence for meaningful health effects is strongest for taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, with suggestions that SSB prices would need to be raised by 20%, or more”, for example.
See more about the study here.