Assessing the potential effectiveness of food and beverage taxes and subsidies for improving public health: a systematic review of prices, demand and body weight outcomes
ABSTRACT Taxes and subsidies are increasingly being considered as potential policy instruments to incentivize consumers to improve their food and beverage consumption patterns and related health outcomes. This study provided a systematic review of recent U.S. studies on the price elasticity of demand for sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), fast food, and fruits and vegetables, as well as the direct associations of prices/taxes with body weight outcomes. Based on the recent literature, the price elasticity of demand for SSBs, fast food, fruits and vegetables was estimated to be -1.21, -0.52, -0.49 and -0.48, respectively. The studies that linked soda taxes to weight outcomes showed minimal impacts on weight; however, they were based on existing state-level sales taxes that were relatively low. Higher fast-food prices were associated with lower weight outcomes particularly among adolescents, suggesting that raising prices would potentially impact weight outcomes. Lower fruit and vegetable prices were generally found to be associated with lower body weight outcomes among both low-income children and adults, suggesting that subsidies that would reduce the cost of fruits and vegetables for lower-socioeconomic populations may be effective in reducing obesity. Pricing instruments should continue to be considered and evaluated as potential policy instruments to address public health risks.
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ABSTRACT: This paper aims at opening the black box of peer effects in adolescent weight gain. Using Add Health data on secondary schools in the U.S., we investigate whether these effects partly flow through the eating habits channel. Adolescents are assumed to interact through a friendship social network. We propose a two-equation model. The first equation provides a social interaction model of fast food consumption. To estimate this equation we use a quasi maximum likelihood approach that allows us to control for common environment at the network level and to solve the simultaneity (reflection) problem. Our second equation is a panel dynamic weight production function relating an individual's Body Mass Index z-score (zBMI) to his fast food consumption and his lagged zBMI, and allowing for irregular intervals in the data. Results show that there are positive but small peer effects in fast food consumption among adolescents belonging to a same friendship school network. Based on our preferred specification, the estimated social multiplier is 1.15. Our results also suggest that, in the long run, an extra day of weekly fast food restaurant visits increases zBMI by 4.45% when ignoring peer effects and by 5.11%, when they are taken into account.
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ABSTRACT: Background: Low-income black residents of Baltimore City have disproportionately higher rates of obesity and chronic disease than other Maryland residents. Increasing the availability and affordability of healthy food are key strategies to improve the food environment and can lead to healthier diets. This paper describes B'More Healthy: Retail Rewards (BHRR), an intervention that tests the effectiveness of performance-based pricing discounts and health communications, separately and combined, on healthy food purchasing and consumption among low-income small store customers. Methods/design: BHRR is 2x2 factorial design randomized controlled trial. Fifteen regular customers recruited from each of 24 participating corner stores in Baltimore City were enrolled. Food stores were randomized to 1) pricing intervention, 2) communications intervention, 3) combined intervention, or 4) control. Pricing stores were given a 10-30% price discount on selected healthier food items, such as fresh fruits, frozen vegetables, and baked chips, at the point of purchase from two food wholesale stores during the 6-month trial. Storeowners agreed to pass on the discount to the consumer to increase demand for healthy food. Communications stores received visual and interactive materials to promote healthy items, including signage, taste tests, and refrigerators. Primary outcome measures include consumer food purchasing and associated psychosocial variables. Secondary outcome measures include consumer food consumption, store sales, and associated storeowner psychosocial factors. Process evaluation was monitored throughout the trial at wholesaler, small store, and consumer levels. Discussion: This is the first study to test the impact of performance-based pricing and communications incentives in small food stores, an innovative strategy to encourage local wholesalers and storeowners to share responsibility in creating a healthier food supply by stocking, promoting, and reducing costs of healthier foods in their stores. Local food wholesalers were involved in a top-down, participatory approach to develop and implement an effective and sustainable program. This study will provide evidence on the effectiveness of price incentives and health communications, separately and combined, among a low-income urban U.S. population.
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ABSTRACT: In 2012 and 2013, Richmond and El Monte, CA, and Telluride, CO, became the first communities in the country to vote on citywide sugary drink taxes. In the face of massive spending from the soda industry, all three proposals failed at the ballot box, but the vigorous public debates they inspired provide valuable insights for future policy efforts. We analyzed local and national news coverage of the three proposals and found that pro-tax arguments appeared most frequently in the news. Advocates for the taxes focused primarily on the potential community health benefits the taxes could produce and the health harms caused by sodas. Tax opponents capitalized on the existing political tensions in each community, including racial and ethnic divisions in Richmond, anti-government attitudes in El Monte, and a culture of individualism in Telluride. Pro-tax arguments came mainly from city officials and public health advocates, while anti-tax forces recruited a wide range of people to speak against the tax. The soda industry itself was conspicuously absent from news coverage. Instead, in each community, the industry funded anti-tax coalition groups, whose affiliation with industry was often not acknowledged in the news. Our analysis of this coverage exposes how soda tax opponents used strategies established by the tobacco industry to fight regulation. Despite these defeats, tax advocates can take inspiration from more mature public health campaigns, which indicate that such policies may take many years to gain traction.Critical Public Health 05/2015; 25(3). DOI:10.1080/09581596.2014.987729 · 0.88 Impact Factor