Background: Socioeconomic inequalities in overweight and obesity exist in many European countries. A sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) tax may contribute to a reduction of these inequalities. However, in the Netherlands, the government decided to not (yet) introduce an SSB tax, although the government has acknowledged its potential to be pro-equity. Understanding how various stakeholder groups perceive the potential effects of an SSB tax on different socioeconomic groups may provide useful insights into equity-related considerations in the debate whether or not to implement an SSB tax. This study aims to gain insight into the perceptions of stakeholder groups in the Netherlands on (1) the effects of an SSB tax on the budgets of lower and higher socioeconomic groups and (2) the impact of an SSB tax on socioeconomic inequalities in dietary intake and health. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2019 with 27 participants from various stakeholder groups in the Netherlands (i.e. health and consumer organizations, health professional associations, trade associations, academia, advisory bodies, ministries and parliamentary parties). Data were analyzed using a thematic content approach. Results: Participants from all stakeholder groups indicated that an SSB tax would have a larger impact on the budgets of lower socioeconomic groups. Participants from nearly all stakeholder groups (except trade associations) mentioned that an SSB tax could have greater health benefits among lower socioeconomic groups as these often have a higher SSB consumption and are more likely to be overweight or obese. Some participants mentioned that an SSB tax may have no or adverse health effects among lower socioeconomic groups (e.g. compensation of lower SSB consumption with other unhealthy behaviours). Some participants emphasised that an SSB tax should only be introduced when accompanied by other interventions (e.g. offering healthy alternatives), to make it easier for lower socioeconomic groups to lower their SSB consumption in response to an SSB tax, and to prevent adverse health effects. Conclusions: Participants believed an SSB tax could contribute to a reduction in socioeconomic inequalities in dietary intake and health. However, additional interventions facilitating the reduction of SSB consumption in lower socioeconomic groups were recommended.
- Dietary intake
- Socioeconomic groups
- Stakeholder views
- Sugar-sweetened beverages tax