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

Health Policy and Administration, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
Obesity Reviews (Impact Factor: 8). 11/2012; 14(2). DOI: 10.1111/obr.12002
Source: PubMed


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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    • "All rights reserved. studied the ex post effect of taxes on health outcomes, with a heavy emphasis on sweetened sugared beverage taxes, e.g., seePowell et al. (2013)for one review. By and large, these studies have focused on aggregate level outcomes and have ignored distributional impacts. "
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    ABSTRACT: We conducted an experiment to study the fiscal impacts of unhealthy food taxes and healthy food subsidies on very low and medium income women in France. The policies tend to be regressive and favour the higher income consumers. Unhealthy food taxes increase prices paid more for low than higher income women. Healthy food subsidies reduce the prices paid more for higher than lower income women. The effects arise because the pre-policy diets of the higher income women tend to be healthier but also because the choices of the higher income women are more responsive to price changes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · The Economic Journal
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    • "Sugary drinks are the largest source of added sugars in the American diet (Reedy & Krebs-Smith, 2010; Welsh, Sharma, Grellinger, & Vos, 2011), responsible for up to 43% of the increase in caloric intake over the past generation (Woodward-Lopez, Kao, & Ritchie, 2010). While soda consumption has declined over the last fifteen years (Kit, Fakhouri, Park, Nielsen, & Ogden, 2013), consumption of other sugary beverages such as sports and energy drinks has risen (Han & Powell, 2013). Sugary beverages, and the marketing that promotes them, are also associated with substantial racial and ethnic health disparities. "
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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.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Critical Public Health
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    • "Third, our interest in peer effects in youths' eating habits is policy driven. There has been much discussion on implementing tax policies to address the problem of obesity (e.g., Caraher and Cowburn, 2007; Powell et al., 2013). As long as peer effects in fast food consumption is a source of externality that may stimulate overweight among adolescents, it may be justified to introduce a consumption tax on fast food. "
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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. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Journal of Health Economics
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