Sugary drinks tax “a landmark day in the fight against obesity”

Irish Heart also welcomes tax hike on cigarettes and VAT refund scheme for charities

Press release, Tuesday October 11th

Responding to today’s (Tuesday October 11th) Budget Statement by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Irish Heart head of advocacy, Chris Macey said:

“The introduction of a sugar sweetened drinks levy is probably the single most important action Government can take to tackle Ireland’s obesity crisis. As a result, this is a landmark day in the fight against what is now recognised as perhaps the biggest threat to the health of the nation.

“The Minister’s announcement demonstrates a significant commitment on the part of Government to meet its duty of care to protect the health of children in particular. We are also encouraged by indications that the measure is already proving effective by prompting beverage companies to reduce sugar content to ensure products fall below the threshold for the tax.

“The evidence shows the tax alone will reduce obesity, but its impact 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.

This could support a wide range of measures, including the development of new family food initiatives, further expansion of the school meals programme and providing free drinking water in all schools.”

Mr Macey also welcomed the 50-cent increase in tax on cigarettes, saying the measure will continue to drive down smoking rates, particularly among teenagers. “It is estimated that the tobacco industry needs 50 young people to take up smoking every day in Ireland to replace those its products kill or who manage to quit. Every tobacco tax increase represents another nail in the coffin of this vile industry by acting as a disincentive to young people to take up the habit.”

In addition, Mr Macey praised Minister Donohoe’s decision to establish a new compensation scheme to counter the unfair burden placed on charities due to unreclaimable VAT. “This effective levy comes with a heavy human cost for society by diminishing the ability of charities to deliver often life changing services for our most vulnerable citizens. The Minister’s announcement today will at least begin to address this anomaly.”