Taxation not part of obesity equation – Beverage Council

The head of the local beverage council says the UK's move is "disappointing." 

The NZ Beverage Council has expressed disappointment in the UK’s decision to tax sugar-sweetened beverages.

Overnight, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne announced a 25p per litre levy on sugary fizzy, energy and juice drinks from 2018. He pledged to invest the revenue in funding sports in schools.

The announcement prompted debate as to whether New Zealand should follow suit; Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has repeatedly refused to introduce a similar tax in this country.

But the head of the NZ Beverage Council says the move is disappointing and New Zealand manufacturers operate under effective self-regulation.

“If the sole aim is to reduce obesity, this move flies in the face of evidence from around the world which shows taxes do little, if anything, to reduce sugar and calorie intake or obesity levels,” president Olly Munro says.

“We are taking a firm stance that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would only perpetuate the myth that they are the cause of the obesity problem in this country. They are not.”

He cites nutritional literacy, moderation and exercise as key to helping fix the obesity issue, saying “taxation is not part of the equation.”

New Zealand’s ‘bad habit’
Mr Coleman has reportedly claimed he will not follow the UK's lead but NZ Initiative head of research Eric Crampton says New Zealand has a bad habit of following “daft” things the UK does.

“Sugar taxes – at least the kinds of levels mooted publicly – just do not do much to change consumption,” he says.

“But sweet things are tempting, and governments can find delicious those taxes that raise revenue while drawing applause from doctors.”

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