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Terveysperusteisen elintarvikeverotuksen vaikutukset kansalaisten terveydentilaan ja terveyseroihin

Studies 112

Writer(s): Kotakorpi Kaisa, Härkänen Tommi, Pietinen Pirjo, Reinivuo Heli, Suoniemi Ilpo and Pirttilä Jukka

Diseases related to overweight are currently one of the most important public health problems, and the proportion of overweight people is still rising. Overweight is significantly more common among people with a low socio-economic background, and of particular concern is the increase of overweight among children and adolescents. At the same time the consumption of sweets and soft drinks has increased and their relative price has fallen. The intake of vegetables and fruit remains still scarce in comparison to recommendations. Against this background, there are good reasons to ask whether one could reduce the prevalence of overweight and otherwise promote health by taking health effects into account in the taxation of food.

In this study, we examine how increased taxation of sugary products and lower taxation of fresh vegetables, fruit and fish would affect food expenditure and, in particular, its distribution among consumers at different income levels as well as the demand for food products. For this aim, we estimate a modern consumption demand system for food consumption using Finnish data. The demand system is used to simulate the impacts of the tax changes on food consumption and energy intake. These changes can then be linked to nutrition-epidemiological studies to assess the impact of the tax changes on the prevalence of overweight, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

The results suggest that the demand of sweets, soft drinks and ice cream will fall significantly as a result of the sugar tax. This in turn reduces obesity and its consequences, particularly the incidence of diabetes. The incidence of coronary heart disease is also reduced. The impacts of the tax on sugar can be considered significant, especially since prevention via tax changes is cost effective. In addition, the results provide at least partial support for the idea that the effects of the sugar tax could be larger than average among low-income households, and therefore the sugar tax is likely to reduce health inequalities. The impacts of the sweets tax that came into force in 2011 will be about half that of the sugar tax.

Reduced VAT rates for fresh fish, fruit and vegetables have a positive direct effect on the incidence of coronary heart disease, which may, however, be partly offset due to increases in energy intake.

Published: 1.3.2011
ISSN: 1236-7176 (pdf)
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