Culture 3 min read

Snack Tax May Be A More Effective Way of Tackling Obesity

Researchers argue that instead of imposing tax on sugary drinks, implementing snack tax could be the best action against the ever-growing obesity problem.

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

According to a recent paper published in the British Medical Journal, snack tax might help reduce obesity levels more effectively than increasing the price of sugar-sweetened drinks.

Obesity rates are increasing across the world. In the United States, adult obesity rates now exceed 35 percent in seven states, 30 percent in 29 states and 25 percent in 48 states.

Some countries decided to introduce sugary drink tax to address the growing health concern of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In 2012, France started a targeted sugar tax on soft drinks. Mexico announced a similar measure in 2013; then the UK did the same in 2016. In the United States, Berkeley, California was the first city to pass a targeted tax on sugary drinks.

But, according to a team of British researchers, the sugar tax only focuses on sugar-sweetened drinks. As such, it fails to account for high sugar snacks like cookies, chocolates, and cakes, which make up more free sugar intake than sugary drinks.

The researchers hypothesized that reducing purchases of these high sugar snacks could make a more significant impact on population health than reducing the consumption of soda. In order to explore their hypothesis, the researchers used economic modeling to analyze the effect of a 20 percent price increase on high sugar snacks in the UK.

How A Snack Tax Could Lead to Weight Loss

To create the model, the researchers used food purchase data for 36,325 UK households, including National Diet and Nutrition Survey data for 2,544 adults.

They then grouped the results based on the household income and the body mass index (BMI). That way, the researchers could estimate changes in weight and obesity prevalence over one year.

Findings of the study suggest that regardless of the income group, a 20 percent increase in the price of snacks would reduce the annual average energy intake by 8,900 calories. That’s an average weight loss of 2.87 pounds in a year.

Meanwhile, a similar price bump on sugary drinks would result in an average weight loss of just 0.45 pounds.

Furthermore, the model predicts that low-income households with the highest obesity rate would experience the largest impact of the price increase. This suggests that taxing high sugar snacks could reduce health inequalities caused by diet-related diseases.

Fiscal Policy to Improve Diet and Health?

While the study seems to encourage a fiscal policy to improve diet and health, it’s not that simple.

According to the researcher, it’s difficult to predict the substitution and displacement effect that could result from the food tax. Also, product reformulation in response to consumer demand could have unintended consequences.

The researchers also argue that while fiscal policies to reduce sugar intake might be useful, it fails to incentivize the consumption of healthy food.

Read More: Daily Smartphone Usage of Five Hours or More May Increase Obesity Risk

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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