Sugar tax curbs consumption but only when obvious to consumer

As sugar-sweetened drinks, from soft drinks to sports drinks, continue to occupy a sizable portion of people’s beverage intake, causing significant deleterious health issues from tooth decay to diabetes and heart disease, one of the measures often suggested as a means of curbing consumption is a sugar tax.

Whatever the merits of this approach in driving down demands for sugar-sweetened drinks, a new U.S. study suggests that taxes applied to sugar-sweetened drinks only really make an impact on consumption habits when visible at the point of sale.

New research published in the journal Psychological Science, and reported on Mirage News, points to the effectiveness of these taxes depending on “on where and how clearly the added cost of a tax is conveyed to the consumer.”

“We investigated whether ‘how a sugary beverage tax is labeled’ influences purchasing of sugary beverages,” said Grant Donnelly, a researcher at The Ohio State University and lead author on the paper. “To have any impact, labels must clearly state that the price includes an added tax. This is compared to an all-inclusive price tag that makes no direct mention of the tax.”

One caveat on this behavioural finding is that if the tax amount is small that it has no real impact in dissuading people from buying drinks high in harmful sugar.

A sizable tax, clearly outlined and instituted, does play a role in making people reconsider their purchase of sugar-sweetened drinks, with people tending to opt for water instead.

To read the full story, go to “Taxing sugary drinks curbs consumption, but only when costs ‘pop'”

/ADA Public Release. View in full here.