The main reason for consumers’ opposition to a sugar tax is that it would be ineffective yet cost more, as has been the case with other products subjected to reactionary taxation.
The AACS survey, involving 4,000 voters aged 18 years plus from around Australia, shows consumers believe the most effective strategy to reduce obesity is to ban advertising of high calorie foods during children’s TV programs, while the least effective strategy would be to impose a sugar tax.
“The results comprehensively demonstrate that Australians don’t believe that introducing a sugar tax will impact consumer behaviour, nor health outcomes,” AACS CEO Jeff Rogut said. “Most are opposed to a sugar tax because it will pressure their budgets, and threaten jobs and industries.”
The AACS has repeatedly reinforced the financial burden that emotionally charged legislative responses can place on businesses and consumers. Discriminatory excise applied to select products merely drives up prices for consumers, the group said.
“Taxing certain products invariably hits small businesses much harder than it does larger corporations,” Rogut said. “Small businesses like convenience stores are much less able to absorb the additional costs than the major supermarkets, but there are also negative impacts for manufacturers.
“The additional price pressure will almost certainly result in reduced sales for convenience stores as consumers shift their purchasing habits to making bulk purchases from the major supermarkets.”
Rogut said regular tobacco excise increases provide a clear precedent for this shift in consumer behaviour. Sales growth of cheaper tobacco products coincide with every excise increase.
“The economic ramifications for manufacturers, suppliers and retailers of a sugar tax would be immense, yet the potential for it to achieve improved health outcomes is unknown. It’s too big an economic risk for Government to take in the context of the challenges already faced by retailers and manufacturers.”