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This paper demonstrates the potential importance, when considering total calorie intake, of allowing for the substitution effects of imposing a selective tax on a commodity having a high sugar content, when non-taxed commodities exist and also have relatively high calorie content. A framework is presented which allows the elasticity of calorie consumption with respect to a price change to be derived. This brings out the role of relative budget shares, relative calorie content of goods and relative prices to be clearly seen, along with own- and cross-price elasticities. Their absolute values for each commodity group are not required. It is demonstrated that the focus of attention needs to be much wider than a simple concentration on the own-price elasticity of demand for the commodity group for which a sumptuary tax is envisaged.
I am grateful to Sarah Hogan for drawing my attention to a number of useful papers, and Matt Cowan for comments on an earlier version of this paper.
The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Working Paper are strictly those of the author(s). They do not necessarily reflect the views of the New Zealand Treasury or the New Zealand Government. The New Zealand Treasury and the New Zealand Government take no responsibility for any errors or omissions in, or for the correctness of, the information contained in these working papers. The paper is presented not as policy, but with a view to inform and stimulate wider debate.