Sugar tax must be ringfenced to tackle childhood obesity

By June Shannon Policy News   |   6th Sep 2018

Budget 2019 is an opportunity for the Government to tackle one of the most critical public health issues of our time: obesity

The Irish Heart Foundation has called on the Government to use funds raised from the sugar sweetened drinks (SSD) tax to combat childhood obesity.

In its pre-budget submission 2019, the Irish Heart Foundation has called for the revenue raised from the SSD tax, expected to be €40 million in a full year, to be ringfenced and reinvested in measures aimed at tackling childhood obesity.

The submission calls for this revenue to be used to implement measures contained in Ireland’s Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016 – 2025 and the Healthy Ireland, Budget 2019 coupled with supporting policies to tackle obesity and food poverty among children.

“The SSD tax should be seen as a public health measure, not a revenue raiser and, as such, it’s income should be ring-fenced and reinvested back into the communities and services where it will have the greatest effect: health promotion and schools,” the submission stated.

The Irish Heart Foundation also called for the SSD Tax to be extended to cover milk-based drinks that contain added sugar.

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Research by the World Obesity Federation predicts that by 2025, 241,000 schoolchildren in Ireland will be overweight or obese by 2025 and as many as 9,000 will have impaired glucose intolerance; 2,000 will have type 2 diabetes; 19,000 will have high blood pressure; and 27,000 will have first stage fatty liver disease.

The Irish Heart Foundation noted that there was current and historical precedent in Ireland for taxes to be reinvested in this way. For example, it stated that since Budget 1999, €168 million of the Tobacco Products Tax has been paid as an Appropriation-in-Aid to the Department of Health and revenue collected €7m in 2017 for the environmental levy on plastic bags provided for under the legislation from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

“The Irish Heart Foundation strongly believe that where obesity is costing the Irish State €1.13billion in direct and indirect costs and 55,056 premature deaths will occur because of childhood overweight and obesity, mechanisms similar to those employed with ringfencing the plastic bag levy can be employed for the SSD tax. This must be done as a matter of priority in Budget 2019,” the submission stated.

The Irish Heart Foundation also called for the SSD Tax to be extended to cover milk-based drinks that contain added sugar.

"Budget 2019 must set a marker for ensuring that health service spending is prioritised according to the interventions which provide the greatest economic and health benefits,"

Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager , Irish Heart Foundation

In relation to stroke services, the submission calls for an investment of €33 million 2019 to ensure that stroke centres providing thrombectomy are developed in conjunction with emergency services to provide access for all suitable stroke victims regardless of location, that every hospital treating stroke has a properly functioning service whereby 90 per cent of stroke patients spend 90 per cent of their hospital stay in a stroke unit and for the national roll out early supported discharge programmes for stroke patients.

It also on Budget 2019 to provide €292,000 for the reintroduction of the FAST stroke awareness campaign which has been proven to save lives.

The submission also called for investment in  services for patients with heart failure as well as cardiac rehabilitation programmes.

Commenting on the submission, Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation stated, “the SSD tax has been a success even before its introduction. Through driving reformulation processes by manufacturers, we have seen a decrease in the amount of sugar in drinks and the Irish diet. But successes could be seen further, if the revenue from the tax was ringfenced. Ringfencing the revenue from the SSD tax for use on measures to tackle childhood obesity within the Healthy Ireland framework and under A Healthy Weight for all could reap dividends to address obesity in Ireland and resultant health inequalities. There is precedent for this measure and only political will stands in the way of it happening.”

“Budget 2019 must set a marker for ensuring that health service spending is prioritised according to the interventions which provide the greatest economic and health benefits. The Irish Heart Foundation submission provides evidence-based measures that can assist to better meet the challenge of chronic disease,” she added.

 

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childhood obesity sugar sugar sweetened drink sugar tax

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