The non-use of evidence in the adoption of a sugar-sweetened beverage tax in OECD countries

Eur J Public Health. 2023 Aug 1;33(4):659-664. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckad098.


Background: Studies confirm the positive effect of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxation on public health. However, only a few countries in Europe adopt SSB taxes. From a public policy perspective, we investigate the conditions under which countries do or do not follow this evidence.

Methods: Crisp-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) of 26 European Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development countries with and without an SSB tax. We test which configurations of conditions (problem pressure, governmental composition, strategic planning, health care system, public health policies, inclusion of expert advice in policymaking) emerge as relevant in determining adoption and non-adoption between the years 1981 and 2021. Pathways that lead to the presence and absence of SSB taxes are identified separately.

Results: At least one of the following configurations of conditions is present in countries that introduced taxation: (i) high financial problem pressure, low regulatory impact assessment activity; (ii) high public health problem pressure, a contribution-financed health care system, no holistic strategy for combatting non-communicable diseases (NCDs); (iii) a tax-financed health care system, a holistic NCD strategy, high strategic and executive planning capacity. In countries that did not adopt SSB taxes, we find (i) high regulatory impact assessment activity, high levels of sugar export; (ii) no holistic NCD strategy, high spending on preventive care; (iii and iv) a lack of strategic planning capacity and either a high share of spending on preventive care or inclusion of expert advice.

Discussion: Evidence inclusion requires clear policy priorities in terms of strategy and resources to promote public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Beverages
  • Humans
  • Noncommunicable Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development
  • Sugar-Sweetened Beverages*
  • Taxes

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.20331690