A sugar tax to ‘tackle obesity’ is among proposals being considered by the government
Further to renewed calls today for a tax on ‘sugar sweetened’ drinks.
Eamon Delaney, at the Hibernia Forum writes:
The Sugar tax proposal is yet another nanny state measure which benefits politicians and the tax collector but doesn’t address the problem it says it does. This ineffective measure uses a sledgehammer inflationary approach and focuses on the wrong area.
We absolutely need to address the growing problem of obesity but this should be done through education, more exercise, less car dependency etc and not just by singling out one product for a punitive financial penalty..
The reality is that sugar taxes don’t reduce obesity and are regressive…
…The obesity problem requires a multi-faceted approach
Soft drinks companies have been active on this issue. In Ireland they say they have increased their marketing spend on no and low sugar options by 80% over the last five years, are not marketing and advertising any beverages to children under 12s, and say they are committed to reformulation
The beverage industry is leading on addressing obesity through a mix of effective measures. Reformulation of sugar sweetened beverages in Ireland has already resulted in a 10% reduction in energy – 15% when the shift towards low and no calorie drinks is included.
They are also reviewing their marketing practices to ensure advertising in a responsible manner, including increasing public awareness on consumption and nutrition.
In fairness, they are committed to doing more, including continuing to accelerate their low calories beverages; aggressive reformulation of their products; and introducing new products with reduced calories.
While obesity rates are rising in Ireland, between 2000 and 2012 the sales of sugar sweetened beverages fell by 21% (sparkling sugar sweetened beverages fell by 28% in the same period).
So what is this about? Why would a sugar tax change this?
Sugared per caps have dropped by 28% since 2003, while lights/waters have grown from 25.7% to 31.9%
With sparkling soft drinks contributing just 3% of total calorie intake in the Irish diet, a tax would be both ineffective in helping to combat obesity and unfair to consumers who would face additional costs.
Lastly we should remember two things:
1. That there’s already a tax on sugary drinks, vat at 23%, and
2. Vat was increased from 21% to 23% and it had no effect on demand for those sugary drinks.