Thousands sign sugar tax petition

Thousands sign sugar tax petition

A petition for a tax on sugary drinks has the backing of more than 7000 Kiwis, including rugby league star Monty Betham, numerous health organisations and magazine Healthy Food Guide.

The Government has long denied sugar taxes work, despite growing evidence overseas that they reduce consumption of high-calorie, sugar-filled beverages.

"There is heaps of evidence that these sugary drinks are contributing to the problems that we have with obesity," Healthy Food Guide editor Niki Bezzant told Paul Henry.

"There is evidence that a tax on sugary drinks contributes to less consumption of these beverages."

While consumption has been linked to obesity and taxes linked to reduced consumption, it might seem obvious that taxes would reduce obesity -- but the jury's still out.

Ms Bezzant says the evidence will take a long time to collect.

"If we look at the taxation of tobacco… it took years and years for consumption to go down, and then it took even longer for the health effects of that to take effect."

Others aren't waiting. Mexico's sugar tax has seen soft drink sales drop 12 percent, and Philadelphia has just passed a new law taxing sugary drinks.

The UK also has plans to introduce a sugar tax in 2018. Drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml will be taxed at about 18p per litre, while those above 8g per 100ml are expected to cost an extra 24p per litre.

Ms Bezzant says she'll leave it up to policy experts to decide the levels here.

"We may look to the UK to see what they end up doing."

New Zealand is the third-fattest nation in the OECD, and one of the rates of childhood obesity in the world.

The tax itself won't be a "magical solution" to end the epidemic, says Ms Bezzant, again comparing it to the slow eradication of smoking.

"This is a thing that harms no one and could potentially do a lot of good. We can sit on our hands and go 'oh, there's no evidence', or we can actually do something now."

The petition can be found on Other supporters include the Heart Foundation, the NZ Dental Association, TV personality Carly Flynn and Diabetes NZ.