Lifestyle Economics

Banning discounts on food will hit the pockets of the poorest the hardest


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Responding to Cancer Research’s call for restrictions on price promotions on food, Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs said:

“It is no surprise that people on low incomes are more likely to take advantage of price discounts and it is well known that people on low incomes are more likely to be obese. By concluding that price discounts cause the obesity, the researchers make the basic mistake of confusing correlation with causation.

“There is no reason to believe that banning discounts would make people buy more fruit and vegetables and it is perverse to think that people on low incomes would benefit from food being made more expensive. The government’s own estimates suggest that banning price discounts on HFSS food could cost the average household £634 a year.”

Notes to editors:

For media enquiries please contact Nerissa Chesterfield, Head of Communications: [email protected] or 07791 390 268

As IEA research has shown, fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates are generally cheaper than HFSS food.

For related IEA reseach on paternalism, click here.

The £634 cost estimate comes from Public Health England (Sugar reduction: the evidence for action. Annexe 4, p. 15) and is based on an average household continuing to buy the same products: ‘Based on the breadth and depth of promotions we calculate a “giveaway” figure which equates to a 16% or approximately £634 reduction on a typical household’s annual take home food and drink bill. In other words, if people bought the same quantity of food and drink with no promotions they would need to spend an additional £634 for the same items.’

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems and seeks to provide analysis in order to improve the public understanding of economics.

The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.



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