Emma Sinclair

More health troughers score big from the Marsden Fund

Another set of health troughers has been revealed to be attacking food and drink manufacturers and all funded by the Marsden Fund.

A “sin tax” on unhealthy items is often touted as a way to stop people having them so often, but it might drive them to cheaper brands.

A team led by a University of Waikato researcher has just received $800,000 to study the idea, focusing on sugary soft drinks and cigarettes.

And while the data they’ll analyse doesn’t come from New Zealand, the findings have implications for Kiwis.

Economics professor John Gibson is leading a team looking into whether a “sin tax” would bring down consumption of fizzy drink and cigarettes.

It was one of four Waikato-led projects to receive funding from the Marsden Fund, and reaped $805,000.

“There are New Zealand studies which say 20 per cent fizzy drink tax would save X number of lives and those are the studies we have some questions about,” Gibson said.

There was a loophole in data which focused on spend rather than quantity bought, he said.

“They might simply go from drinking expensive Coke to either cheaper Coke . . . or they might go from Coke down to Pams or Homebrand,” he said.

For instance, Countdown sells a 600ml bottle of Coca Cola for $3.99 whereas 1.25L of Homebrand Lemonade is just 97 cents.

“The existing studies assume the reduction in spending translates to a reduction in quantity,” Gibson said. ? Read more »