Skip to main content

Tax increases on energy dense foods and tobacco reduce health inequality

Published: 10 October 2023

A review of international evidence on how to reduce inequalities in health has found that tax increases on tobacco and high energy foods, with subsidies on fruit and vegetables, work well to narrow gaps in health between the richest and poorest. 

While inequalities in healthy life expectancy have remained stable, the gap in how long someone can expect to live between the least and most deprived populations in Wales has been increasing in recent years for both males and females. The poorest households are also being hit hardest by the cost of living crisis and this is further widening the gaps between those with the best and the worst health. 

The Identifying Evidence to Support Action to Reduce Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health report, commissioned by Public Health Wales and undertaken by Liverpool John Moores University, aimed to better understand this gap. 

The report identified key areas where evidence shows that actions have positive effects on inequalities in health and these include:  

  • Price/tax increases on tobacco and high energy density foods and subsidies on fruit and vegetables, coupled with comprehensive smoke free policies. 

  • Targeting help and information towards people in low socioeconomic groups, for example assisting with navigating the healthcare system, parental education, and breastfeeding promotion. 

  • Food subsidy programmes and improvement of housing conditions.  

Sara Wood, researcher at Public Health Wales, said: “Addressing inequalities in health between the least and most deprived is a key challenge for public health. Through identifying the actions that can improve health outcomes for low socioeconomic groups, this valuable report can help inform future work to create a fairer and healthier Wales.”