A review of sugar taxes commissioned by NZIER for the Ministry of Health, released this week under the Official Information Act, finds that sugar taxes are unlikely to improve health outcomes.
The report finds that:
• “No study based on actual experience with sugar taxes has identified an impact on health outcomes.”
• “Studies using sound methods report reductions in [sugar] intake that are likely too small to generate health benefits and could easily be cancelled out by substitution of other sources of sugar or calories.”
• Earlier studies significantly overestimate the effect of sugar taxes on sugar consumption due to “fundamental methodological flaws,” and these estimates have contaminated later modelling trying to assess the health benefits of sugar taxes.
• “The evidence that sugar taxes improve health is weak.”
The Initiative’s Chief Economist Dr Eric Crampton said: “It is encouraging that the Ministry of Health under the prior National government sought sound independent advice on the effects of sugar taxes.”
He continued: “NZIER’s findings mirror what the Initiative concluded in our 2016 report, The Health of the State. Sugar taxes are administratively burdensome and are unlikely to provide any substantial benefit.
“I would especially encourage sugar tax proponents to read NZIER’s review. For too long, sugar tax advocates have cast the scientific debate in terms of heroes and villains – the crusading public health protectors against evil companies.
"It was often insinuated that Minister Coleman’s reluctance to implement sugar taxes was evidence of some conspiracy against the public to protect the industry. This independent report shows that sugar taxes do not stack up.”
The report was produced in August 2017 but only made public on Wednesday after Official Information Act request from the New Zealand Initiative, and after assistance from the Ombudsman’s Office.
You can download The Health of the State on our website.