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New report on why a sugar tax won't curb obesity

The Taxpayers’ Union is today launching a report which corrects the recent claims of New Zealand campaigners about the effectiveness of sugar taxes in curbing obesity.

The report contains Nielsen sales data, which is being publicly released for the first time in New Zealand. The data shows that Mexican sales of sugar sweetened beverages have not moved, despite the introduction of a sugar tax. While Auckland University’s public health activists are choosing to use interview data which supports their campaign, the real sales data does not lie.

Fizzed out: Why a sugar tax won’t curb obesity, sets the record straight, and examines honestly whether taxes on food and drink, such as that introduced in Mexico, are likely to reduce consumption and affect obesity rates. 

Key findings:

  • Fizzed-out.jpgOnly 1.6 per cent of New Zealanders' total energy intake comes from the added sugar content of sugar sweetened non-alcoholic beverages
  • New Zealanders' consumption of sugar and sugar sweetened beverages is trending downward
  • New Zealanders are still getting fatter despite consuming less calories, suggesting that we’re not burning as many calories
  • Sugar taxes hurt the poor and do not result in the decreased consumption tax-supporters claim
  • Similar taxes overseas have not worked - Mexico’s tax on soda resulted in no decrease in consumption, despite recent claims to the contrary by New Zealand campaigners
The report's author, Joshua Riddiford, sums up the politics of food and drink taxes in his executive summary:

Proposing a 20 per cent tax on sugar, as some groups have suggested, appears to be more about value judgements on sugar than actually helping New Zealanders towards better health outcomes.

Christopher Snowdon of Britain’s Institute of Economic Affairs, has written a foreword to the report which concludes:

A sugar tax is attractive to politicians because it allows them to engage in mass pick-pocketing with a sense of moral superiority.

It is not good enough to say that anything is worth a try in the campaign against obesity. A policy that is known to incur significant costs without reaping any measurable rewards is a policy that should be rejected.

The report which can be viewed below or downloaded as a pdf. Hard copies are also available on request.

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