The findings suggest that a 10 percent sweet snacks tax could lead to around a 7 percent drop in purchases. This reduction in purchases is similar to the figures for taxing sugar-sweetened drinks, which research says could lead to a 6 to 8 percent drop in sales.
However, the researchers from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford say that the sweet snacks levy would lead to a knock-on effect on the sale of other foods.
The team observed that people could reduce their purchases of soft drinks, biscuits, cakes and savoury snacks as a part of this knock-on effect.
As well, sweet snacks pack twice as much sugar in the diet as sugar-sweetened drinks, so the net reduction of sugar intake could be greater with a sweet snacks levy.
Lead author Professor Richard Smith from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine told BreakingNews.ie, “We know that increasing the price of sugar-sweetened beverages is likely to generate a small, but significant, reduction in their purchase.
“However, there has been little research on the impact that a similar price increase on other sweet foods such as chocolate, confectionery, cakes and biscuits could have on the purchase of sugar.
“This research suggests that taxing these sweet snacks could bring even greater health gains and warrants detailed consideration.”
In fact, increasing the price of chocolate snacks lead to a significant reduction in food buying across all categories. Taxing the price of biscuits led to a potential 2.3 percent reduction in the purchase of cakes, as well as a 1.7 percent reduction in chocolate and confectionery purchases.
Because this is an observational study, the researchers can't explain why these changes in consumer behaviour occur.
Co-author Professor Susan Jebb, from the University of Oxford, noted, "It’s impossible to study the direct effects of a tax on snack food on consumer behaviour until such policies are introduced, but these estimates show the likely impact of changes in the price.
“These snacks are high in sugar but often high in fat too and very energy dense, so their consumption can increase the risk of obesity.
“This research suggests that extending fiscal policies to include sweet snacks could be an important boost to public health, by reducing purchasing and hence consumption of these foods, particularly in low-income households.”