Taxing soft drinks in the Pacific: implementation lessons for improving health

Thow, Anne Marie, Quested, Christine, Juventin, Lisa, Kun, Russ, Khan, A Nisha and Swinburn, Boyd (2011) Taxing soft drinks in the Pacific: implementation lessons for improving health. Health promotion international, 26 (1). pp. 55-64.


A tax on soft drinks is often proposed as a health promotion strategy for reducing their consumption and
improving health outcomes. However, little is known about
the processes and politics of implementing such taxes. We
analysed four different soft drink taxes in Pacific countries
and documented the lessons learnt regarding the process of
policy agenda-setting and implementation. While local
social and political context is critically important in determining policy uptake, these case studies suggest strategies
for health promotion practitioners that can help to improve
policy uptake and implementation. The case studies reveal
interaction between the Ministries of Health, Finance and
Revenue at every stage of the policy making process. In
regard to agenda-setting, relevance to government fiscal
priorities was important in gaining support for soft drink
taxes. The active involvement of health policy makers was
also important in initiating the policies, and the use of
existing taxation mechanisms enabled successful policy
implementation. While the earmarking of taxes for health
has been widely recommended, the revenue may be redirected as government priorities change. Health promotion
practitioners must strategically plan for agenda-setting,
development and implementation of intersectoral healthpromoting policies by engaging with stakeholders in
finance at an early stage to identify priorities and synergies,
developing cross-sectoral advocacy coalitions, and basing
proposals on existing legislative mechanisms where
Key words: intervention; diet; obesity

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