Support grows for sugar tax, say researchers

A tax on sugary drinks would make "a strong statement that New Zealanders...value child health over corporate profts", ...
SAM HODGSON

A tax on sugary drinks would make "a strong statement that New Zealanders...value child health over corporate profts", sayd Dr Gerhard Sundborn.

Kiwis are warming to the idea of a tax on sugary drinks, according to poll results.

A group of medical professionals who support the tax published findings of an 8 per cent rise in support of a tax on 'sugar-sweetened beverages'.

Poll results from February 2014 showed 44 per cent of respondents supported a tax. That increased to 52 percent in a second poll funded by the National Heart Foundation and Cancer Society in June this year, as long as revenue from the tax was used to fight child obesity.

In a letter published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, senior research fellow at Auckland University Dr Gerhard Sundborn wrote that opposition to the tax has decreased significantly because of better public awareness.

"The speed at which public opinion has shifted (in favour of a SSB tax) indicates that New Zealanders are increasingly aware of the harms SSBs pose to health, and that of children especially."

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He argued there was strong political support to address the need for a tax on sugary drinks.

A brief outlining initiatives, including a 20 per cent excise tax, to reduce consumption was formally endorsed by the Green, Labour, and Māori parties.

However, he said action was needed urgently.

"New Zealand has the third highest rate of childhood obesity in the developed world, and a recent study has found that high sugary drink intake is conservatively attributed to 561 deaths in Australasia per year," he wrote.

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"The introduction of an SSB tax would be another positive step toward addressing childhood obesity, making a strong statement that New Zealanders, as a society, value child health over corporate profits."

Sundborn co-authored the paper with Dr's Simon Thornley, Bodo Lang and Rob Beaglehole, on behalf of the FIZZ organisation (Fighting Sugar in Soft Drinks New Zealand), an advocacy group set up to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in New Zealand to zero by 2025.

 - Stuff

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