Dentists gritting their teeth over lack of sugar tax

The Government should renege on its 'no new taxes' policy to combat the obesity epidemic, health experts say.

Health Minister David Clark is expected to make an announcement on Friday regarding sugary drinks and district health boards, but it's understood a tax on the calorific sweetener isn't on the cards.

"We'd be really excited to hear the minister introduce a tax on sugary drinks," NZ Dental Association sugary drinks spokeswoman Donna Kennedy told The AM Show on Friday morning.

"Look at it as a health levy. Other countries in the world have introduced it, the WHO support it. By raising the cost of sugary drinks, it will reduce consumption."

A world-leading sugar tax in Mexico has had promising results, with sales of soft drinks and other sugary sweets falling over the four years since its implementation. It's unclear yet whether it's had an effect on obesity rates.

"It's a bit early to measure obesity - that will take a few years to come through," said Ms Kennedy.

A tax on sugary drinks in the UK came into force in April - 18p per litre for drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml, and 24p per litre if they contain more than 8g per 100ml. Coca-Cola, for example, would fall into the latter category.

Ms Kennedy says it's had an impact already, with beverage manufacturers reducing the amount of sugar in drinks like Ribena to avoid the most punishing tax rates.

Advice provided to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier this year, released this week under the Official Information Act, said a sugar tax would work - especially for lower-income households.

"Reduction of consumption via a tax will probably be greatest among the households with the lowest disposable income," science advisor John Potter said.

The Prime Minister's office said there are no plans to introduce a sugar tax "at this time".


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