Media release: Ministry of Health: “No evidence that sugar taxes reduce obesity or obesity-related illness.”

Media release
1 March, 2018

Wellington (1 March 2018): Documents released under the Official Information Act reveal a Ministry of Health deeply sceptical about sugar taxes.

In October 2017, the Initiative requested all advice provided by the Ministry to then Minister Jonathan Coleman regarding sugar taxes, as well as internal briefing documents and correspondence.

The documents released to the Initiative this week show that the Ministry’s advice to Minister Coleman was that there is “insufficient evidence that a sugar tax would be effective in reducing obesity.” The Ministry also warned that the quality of the evidence in research supporting sugar taxes “is a major concern.” And it pointed to substantial problems in existing research claiming benefits of sugar taxes.
The Initiative’s Chief Economist, Dr Eric Crampton, said: “For too long, public health academics have pretended that sugar taxes have strong support. Instead, we find that the Ministry has been advising that the evidence simply isn’t there.”

Dr Crampton continued, “The internal advice within the Ministry of Health highlighted the same problems with sugar taxes that were highlighted in our 2016 report The Health of the State, the 2017 NZIER report commissioned by the Ministry, and 2016 work by Treasury. Studies relied upon by sugar tax advocates vastly overestimate the effect of taxes on consumption.”
The thirty-seven documents released under the Official Information Act are available here


Dr Eric Crampton is available for interviews, please contact:

Linda Heerink, Communications Officer
The New Zealand Initiative
Phone: +64 4 494 9109
Mobile: +64 21 172 8036

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