Intentions rarely translate to action

The Herald reports:

Nearly three-quarters of Kiwi fast-food consumers would trim their intake if the Government imposed a fat tax, a survey suggests.

Fourteen per cent said they would quit fast food under a fat tax, according to the Perceptive Research survey of 1004 people done in September for Diabetes NZ.

The support group has declared November to be “diabetes action month”, to help people cope with the disease and to draw attention to what it says is New Zealand’s fastest-growing health crisis.

It says forty people a day are diagnosed with diabetes.

“More than 260,000 people in New Zealand have diabetes; the prevalence has doubled in the past 10 years.”

Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and New Zealand’s rate of obesity, at 31 per cent, more than triple what it was in the 1970s, continues to grow.

The survey also asked about views on a tax on fizzy sugar drinks. It found 39 per cent said they would change their fizzy drinking habits with a tax.

Nineteen per cent said they might buy the drinks less often with a 20 per cent tax. A further 20 per cent might alter their buying habits with a 25 per cent tax.

These questions mean little. It is asking people what they think they will do, which is very different to what they actually do.

An example is this poll on free range eggs. 53% claim that ethics is more important to price when they buy eggs. However free-range eggs make up only 12% of the market so 41% have said they will buy free range eggs for ethical reasons, but never actually do.

Taxing something will generally reduce consumption of it, but each item will have its own elasticity of demand. Also heavy consumers can respond differently to moderate consumers.

The other issue is substitution. If people, for example, substitute orange juice for fizzy drinks, they may end up more obese.

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