Research: Are Snack Taxes the answer?

Research wordResearch word

Could raising the prices on sugary snacks could help reduce obesity?

Weight of taxes
Weight of taxes

If you have read to any of my prior blog posts, you know my opinion on sin taxes. I decided to revisit the topic because I found a new article and some research to back six taxes. If I thought they would make a difference and would not punish the poor at a higher fraction than it would the rich, I would be more supportive, so maybe the research will chnage my mind. To understand the problem with sin taxes, you have to understand what they are.

So what are sin taxes? A sin tax is a financial contribution that is levied by the government in order to either reduce consumption of a product or to pay for something that might be caused by using the product. For example, the government may tax tobacco in order to either reduce the use of said product or to pay for the adverse medical outcomes that may come from using said product.

Blood sugar measurement
Blood sugar measurement

The benefit of these taxes sounds great when you hear about them, but the reality is often different in practice. The problem in practice is that the government rarely spends the money on the intended target and that people often are hurt by the taxes and continue to use the product. For example, alcohol taxes should be used to treat the effects of alcohol abuse, but instead, they go into the general fund and are used for anything. Also, they do not seem to have decreased alcohol consumption.

The basis behind the research is that increasing the price of sugary snacks might be more effective at cutting obesity levels than increasing the price of sugar-sweetened drinks. The research was published in the British Medical Journal​[1]​. The study estimated the potential effect on body mass index and the prevalence of obesity from a 20% price increase for high sugar snacks. The researchers found that the effect on snacks was double that of similar price increase on sugar-sweetened drinks.

Reducing the intake of sugar could have a major benefit for the worldwide obesity and overall nutrition. Empty calories are the bain of a healthy weight and definitely increase the risk of nutrient deficiency if your intake is too high because it will replace the more vitamin and mineral dense foods.

The bottom line: Sin taxes might be an option worth further evaluation. It is definitely worth further research. Obesity rates are skyrocketing around the globe and anything that will help should be investigated. I would like to see more research that looks into the risk-benefit for different socioeconomic groups. It appears that it woukd hitr th epoor more than the rich and maybe that is ok since the poor have higher obesity rates.


  1. [1]
    E. Mahase, “Obesity: raising price of sugary snacks may be more effective than soft drink tax,” BMJ, p. l5436, Sep. 2019 [Online]. Available:
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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