This month, the Economic Society of Australia’s National Economic Panel (NEP) faced two propositions relating to the sugar tax; a topical issue given that Australia is facing an ‘obesity epidemic’ with more than one in four adults being obese.

Proposition 1: The best economic policy instrument available to policy makers seeking to address obesity and related health issues in Australia is the introduction of a tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs).

Proposition 2: The health and non-health benefits from a tax on SSBs are likely to outweigh the possible costs felt elsewhere in the economy.

Key poll results:

  • Of the 22 participating panellists, 12 (57 percent) disagreed or strongly disagreed, 1 (just under 5%) was uncertain and 8 (38 percent) agreed.
    • Those who disagreed with the proposition did so for a range of reasons, the most common being a view that there are superior alternatives to taxing SSBs.
  • Ten panellists (48 percent) agreed or strongly agreed with the second proposition, 4 (19 percent) disagreed or strongly disagreed while 7 (33 percent) were uncertain.
    • Those who disagreed emphasised the potentially regressive nature of an SSB tax. However, a member who voted ‘agree’ argued that “given the weight of SSB in the consumption basket of individuals, the adverse effect on poorer individuals should be small and most likely recovered through improved health outcomes”.

Read the full results of the poll.

Read the overview of the poll results by: Professor Emily Lancsar (Head, Department of Health Services Research & Policy, The Australian National University).

The Society is on the lookout for good questions to put to the National Economic Panel. You can submit your question ideas here.

(Source: ESA news Poll results | Panellist responses | Overview)

Want to know more about sugar taxes? Read our articles on the topic:

Should We Tax Legal (but Harmful) Pleasures?, by Rob Vosslamber

A Sugar Tax Will Benefit Our Most Disadvantaged Groups, by Anita Lal

Grattan Institute’s Case for Sugar Tax Is Not Proven, by Jonathan Pincus

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