Sugary drink tax comes into force May 1st

By June Shannon Policy News   |   30th Apr 2018

Calls for a portion of the proceeds to be ringfenced to fund measures to prevent childhood obesity

Monday, 30 April 2018

Tomorrow (Tuesday May 1st ) marks “the most significant day” to date in the fight against childhood obesity, the Irish Heart Foundation has said.

The sugar sweetened drinks tax, which will lead to price increases on some fizzy drinks, comes into force in Ireland tomorrow and the Irish Heart Foundation has reiterated calls for a portion of the proceeds to be ringfenced to fund measures to prevent childhood obesity as is the case in the UK.

Head of Advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation, Mr Chris Macey said the introduction of the new tax was the first signal that Government was prepared to take tough action to tackle the crisis.

85,000 of today’s children on the island of Ireland will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity

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Research has shown that 85,000 of today’s children on the island of Ireland will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity.

Doctors from Temple St Children’s Hospital advised the Dail last month that more than a third or 40 per cent of children presenting to the specialist weight management service at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin already have risk factors for heart disease.

Mr Macey said that the decision to introduce this new tax had already paid off due to a major programme of reformulation by manufacturers to reduce sugar levels below the thresholds chosen for the tax.

According to Mr Macey, “This move demonstrates a significant commitment on the part of Government to meet its duty of care to protect children in particular from this mortal threat to their health. State funded research estimates that 85,000 of today’s children on the island of Ireland will die prematurely and many more hard decisions will be required if we are going to change their future.

“These will inevitably include a ban on junk food marketing to children, the development of nutrition standards to protect students from a growing proliferation of unhealthy food provision within and in the vicinity of second level schools and a major programme to increase accessibility of healthy food within disadvantaged areas.”

“If, as has been stated, the tax is being implemented purely as a health measure, then surely the proceeds should be deployed in the fight against obesity."

Mr Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy, Irish Heart Foundation

In relation to the new tax, Mr Macey said it was clear the impact of reformulation and of reduced consumption due to price increases could be further magnified if at least a portion of the proceeds was ringfenced to fund measures targeted at children’s future health, particularly in disadvantaged areas where obesity rates are highest.

The revenue could support a wide range of measures, including the development of new family food initiatives, further expansion of the school meals programme, removal of vending machines and the provision of free drinking water in all schools.

“If, as has been stated, the tax is being implemented purely as a health measure, then surely the proceeds should be deployed in the fight against obesity, as has been the case with the tax in the UK which was introduced last month.”

Mr Macey said that the Irish Heart Foundation also supported the taxing of milk products with added sugar. While fizzy drinks are calorie packed but have no nutritional value, flavoured milk products contain important nutrients such as calcium and protein.

“However, some flavoured milk products can have more sugar than fizzy drinks, their exclusion weakens the tax and there is no incentive for manufacturers to reduce the sugar content.”

 

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