An endgame to sugar-sweetened beverages in NZ by 2025?

Dr Eric Crampton

Via Dave Guerin, I find that Auckland Uni is hosting a symposium: "Sugary Drink Free Pacific By 2030?" The press release notes Richard Johnson and Robert Lustig as keynotes. Lustig is famous for his "fructose is toxic" position; Johnson's pretty similar.

The first day's sessions will discuss just how evil sugar is. The second day's sessions will cover policies to reduce sugar, including a keynote from a guy who's eating a lot of sugar and making a movie about it, a talk by Tony Falkenstein advocating a soda tax, a talk on lessons for advocacy, and one called "An endgame to SSB [sugar-sweetened beverages] in NZ by 2025?"

Tony Falkenstein is likely the same Tony Falkenstein whose day job is putting water coolers and filters in NZ offices: they're called "Just Water". I doubt he has any particular expertise in soda taxes, other than that they hit competitor beverages. He's also the one helping organise some class action suit against Coke and the beverage companies. I'd thought that part of the deal with the Accident Compensation Commission was that New Zealand didn't really have class action liability suits; I expect that it's largely a publicity stunt for Falkenstein's water company. I think we had one of his water coolers before we moved offices; I think I can see a budget line item that the Department can pretty quickly do away with as part of our ongoing budget cuts.

Now down at the bottom of this fantabulous shindig's programme is a Health Research Council logo. It's also on the Symposium's flyer advertising their keynotes. The Health Research Council's website also hosts conference materials and advertises the conference, though the HRC says it isn't funding the event. But, registration is $100 and they're flying in two keynotes from the US; there's no way they're covering their costs based on registration fees. I wonder how they're making up the difference. I hope it's not with public funding, since the conference seems not an academic inquiry into sugar and health but rather an advocacy event. The kind of advocacy event National would have railed against under a Helen Clark government.

Add to the slippery slopes file. A couple years ago it was SmokeFreeNZ 2025. Now it's moving towards ending sugar-based soft drinks. I wonder how long until they want plain packaging for Coke.

Dr Eric Crampton is a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Canterbury. He blogs at Offsetting Behaviour.

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Comparing high-sugar drinks to tobacco might be going a bit far (you think?), but aspects of alcohol regulations could be instructive.
You can't buy or drink an alcoholic beverage in a hospital or a school.
But you can buy it in a supermarket, at a very reasonable price, and drink it on private premises.
That policy could be applied to high-sugar drinks (and their solid equivalents) with little inconvenience and less cost .

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George, I like your thiking!

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Little inconvenience... except to those in schools or visiting folks in hospitals.

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Hi sugar drinks including fruit juices) are not the only means those that do not edit their consumption can overload on sugar, will this extend to biscuits, lollies etc as well

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Eric, stop being snide for a moment and check the information on the long term health effects of High sugar diets. The health results are pretty bad and will cost the individual and tax payer lots of money in the long term. I am not keen on the wowser approach to consumption, ie ban everything and install airbags on everyone. My libertarian/anarchist side prefers individual autonomy on issues of food, drink and drugs, as criminalistion of substances leads to profitable criminals and imprisoned users. However that being said I acknowledge the dangers of excess sugar, just like I do for excess alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

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