The sugar tax has not worked as intended: A bitter pill for public health

The Critic
Thursday, December 14, 2023
In March 2021, a study was published in BMJ Open claiming that the UK sugar tax had led to a 10 per cent reduction in the amount of sugar consumed in soft drinks. Although one of its authors admitted that a decline of this magnitude “might sound modest”, it was presented as a win for public health. The preposterous pressure group Action on Sugar called for the tax to be “extended to other categories” and the 10 per cent figure soon found its way into the National Food Strategy and several World Health Organisation reports. Last week the study was retracted, along with an editorial titled “UK sugar tax hits the sweet spot” that had been published in the British Medical Journal claiming that the tax was “working exactly as intended”. It turns out that tax has not been not working exactly as intended. In a new version of the study, the authors estimate that the decline in sugar consumption from soft drinks was just 2.7 per cent, barely a quarter of the original figure, and that in contrast to the original study, which claimed that there had been no change in soft drink sales, the volume of soft drinks rose by 2.6 per cent.
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