Majority of Dutch people support a sugar tax on sugar-sweetened beverages provided that revenues contribute to public health

The majority of the Dutch people surveyed are in favour of an extra tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, provided that the revenues are used for public health purposes. This is according to an opinion poll conducted by VU Amsterdam among a representative sample of 500 Dutch adults.

06/08/2020 | 8:45 AM

The research was conducted by the Department of Health Sciences and published online in the scientific journal Public Health Nutrition. At least half of those surveyed said they thought that an extra tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is a good idea as long as the revenues are used for public health purposes. However, not everyone is in favour of such a sugar tax whereby the revenues are used for public health purposes, with one-third saying that they were against it.

Tackling obesity
Ever more Dutch people are overweight. In 1990, one in three adults were overweight, while today the figure is over half. In the fight against obesity, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that governments raise the price of sugar-sweetened beverages by at least 20 percent.

Research conducted by VU Amsterdam shows that a large majority of Dutch people surveyed consider overweight to be a problem and over 80 percent think that sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to the development of overweight. At least half believe that an additional tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would help to improve public health. This could be caused by a fall in the sales of soft drinks or a reduction in the amount of sugar added to drinks by soft drinks manufacturers.

No additional tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in the Netherlands
Many countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland and Portugal, have introduced an extra tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. But, other than VAT and the consumer tax on non-alcoholic drinks, the Dutch government has not introduced any additional tax specifically for sugar-sweetened beverages. Nevertheless, local politicians in major cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht are arguing for such a tax. They believe that this would prevent many children from becoming overweight. The introduction of the tax in the United Kingdom in 2018 led to significant changes among various soft drink producers. The amount of sugar sold in soft drinks has since dropped by 28.8 percent.

National Sugar Challenge
Michelle Eykelenboom, PhD candidate at the VU Department of Health Sciences and first author of this research, was invited by the Diabetes Fonds to present the research results at the kick-off of the National Sugar Challenge (NSC). This is the third time that the Diabetes Fonds has organized this challenge, in which participants try not to eat and drink added sugars for a week (8 to 14 June). During the kick-off, measures were discussed to stimulate a healthy choice, including a sugar tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, among others with members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.

The research by VU Amsterdam was carried out within the Policy Evaluation Network (PEN) and funded by the Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) ‘a Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life’.