No evidence to support soft drink sugar tax
Responding today to a call by Fianna Fáil for the introduction of a sugar tax on soft drinks, Declan Jackson, Director of the Irish Beverage Council said: “The Irish Beverage Council is fully committed to playing its part in helping to tackle obesity and other relevant public health issues. However the obesity issue will not be resolved by taxation or other forms of discriminatory legislation aimed at individual food categories.
“There is significant evidence to suggest that taxes, in particular discriminatory taxes, are an ineffective approach to tackling complex diet and lifestyle-related problems. It is widely accepted that obesity and unhealthy weight gain result from an imbalance between energy expenditure and energy intake. Moreover, the world class Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA) data clearly shows that there is no correlation between soft drink consumption and standard measures of obesity. An evidence based holistic approach is necessary, which should include measures such as reformulation, consumer awareness, labelling and consumer information, the promotion of physical activity, and workplace and school wellbeing programmes.
“Fiscal measures specifically aimed at altering behaviour are complex to design and can be highly unpredictable. In comparison with our European neighbours, Ireland already has high VAT on beverages at 23%. An additional tax on sugar or soft drinks would be akin to a double tax and cause unwelcome uncertainty throughout the food chain. For instance, given the proximity of the border with Northern Ireland, consumers would be encouraged to avoid the tax by doing their weekly grocery shopping in the border towns. Furthermore, the impact would also be highly regressive, with a disproportionate impact on low-income families that spend a higher proportion of income on food. The experience in Denmark, where a fat tax had to be scrapped less that ten months after it was introduced, illustrates the potential pitfalls of such a discriminatory extra tax.”