Sup­port for sugar tax The dan­ger of sug­ary drinks

Hamilton News - - Front Page -

Di­a­betes New Zealand says it strongly sup­ports the re­cent call by DHB heads for New Zealand to in­tro­duce a sugar tax.

“De­spite many govern­ment pro­grammes to ad­dress the prob­lem, the in­ci­dence of di­a­betes in New Zealand is in­creas­ing. Some­thing much more is needed to stem this fa­tal tide. Di­a­betes NZ earnestly be­lieves that this some­thing is a sugar tax,” says Di­a­betes NZ pa­tron, Sir Eion Edgar.

Di­a­betes NZ has lodged a sub­stan­tial sub­mis­sion to the Tax Work­ing Group — Sugar Tax fo­cused on how a sugar tax can help save lives, im­prove qual­ity of life, and save mil­lions on our na­tional health costs.

“The grow­ing and ap­palling rates of type 2 di­a­betes in this coun­try presents a com­pelling case that stronger ac­tion is now im­per­a­tive,” Chief ex­ec­u­tive of Di­a­betes NZ, Heather Verry, says.

Some 241,000 New Zealan­ders suf­fer from di­a­betes and a fur­ther 100,000 peo­ple are at-risk, but as yet un­di­ag­nosed, ac­cord­ing to a Min­istry of Health re­port from 2016.

Di­a­betes sig­nif­i­cantly con­trib­utes to heart at­tacks and strokes, kid­ney fail­ure, blind­ness, nerve dam­age, am­pu­ta­tions, and den­tal caries.

“The up­shot of this run­away health epi­demic is the spi­ralling costs for New Zealand’s health sys­tem,” says Ms Verry.

“The grow­ing preva­lence of di­a­betes places a bur­den on our un­der-pres­sure health sys­tem that threat­ens to squeeze out other much-needed health care.”

The Min­istry of Health re­ports that the to­tal di­rect health costs for a per­son with di­a­betes are three times higher than those for peo­ple with­out di­a­betes.

“Multi-faceted pro­grammes such as healthy eat­ing in schools, ex­er­cise and greater ac­tiv­ity in schools and com­mu­ni­ties, bet­ter food la­belling and sub­sidised health checks are es­sen­tial to com­bat the ris­ing tide of di­a­betes. Still, Obe­sity is one of the pri­mary risk fac­tors for type 2 di­a­betes, which ac­counts for 90 per cent of di­a­betes suf­fer­ers in New Zealand. While type 2 di­a­betes has his­tor­i­cally been a ma­tu­rity on­set con­di­tion, it is now in­creas­ingly de­vel­op­ing in chil­dren and young adults. Re­search con­ducted in the United States con­cluded that peo­ple who con­sume sug­ary drinks reg­u­larly — at least a can a day — have a 26 per cent greater risk of de­vel­op­ing Type 2 di­a­betes. In the United King­dom and US, sug­ary drinks are the top calo­rie choice for teenagers’ di­ets. In the UK, con­sump­tion of sugar sweet­ened bev­er­ages equates to one can for ev­ery in­di­vid­ual each day and is the largest sin­gle source of sugar for those aged 11 to 18. In Jan­uary, a Univer­sity of Waikato study found New Zealand to be the worst coun­try be­hind the UK, Aus­tralia and Canada for its pro­por­tion of sugar-laden drinks. “In the light of this fact, Di­a­betes NZ pro­poses that the sugar tax should be lev­elled at the source of sug­ary drinks — the man­u­fac­tur­ers and dis­trib­u­tors,” says Ms Verry. “A sugar tax will strike di­rectly at re­duc­ing the harm­ful ex­cess con­sump­tion of sug­ary drinks and fo­cus at­ten­tion on health­ier nu­tri­tional choices.” Di­a­betes NZ have ac­tively ad­vo­cated for schools to stop sell­ing these drinks and for more drink­ing foun­tains to be available in pub­lic ar­eas. we be­lieve that in­ter­ven­tion in the form of a sugar tax will have di­rect and sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits,” says Ms Verry.

Suc­cess­ful UK model

Crit­ics of a sugar tax tend to view it as a tax on con­sumers to pre­scribe buy­ing habits.

How­ever, Di­a­betes NZ be­lieve that the re­cently in­tro­duced UK Soft Drinks Levy is the way to go.

This levy is de­signed to get man­u­fac­tur­ers and dis­trib­u­tors to re­for­mu­late the in­gre­di­ents of their prod­ucts.

Con­sumers will only be af­fected to the ex­tent that man­u­fac­tur­ers pass on their ad­di­tional costs.

“Our govern­ment needs to look at the UK ex­am­ple. There, as here, doubts ex­isted about in­tro­duc­ing a sugar tax and what it might achieve. This levy has al­ready achieved sig­nif­i­cant suc­cesses. De­spite protests from man­u­fac­tur­ers when the UK tax was in­tro­duced, all but one of them re­for­mu­lated their drinks to avoid the tax by the time it took ef­fect,” says Ms Verry.

“Di­a­betes NZ be­lieve that the in­tro­duc­tion of a sugar tax will rep­re­sent the strong­est pos­si­ble sig­nal that the govern­ment is se­ri­ous about tack­ling one of this coun­try’s most dev­as­tat­ing health prob­lems,” says Ms Verry.

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