Sugar tax campaigner lashes out at David Clark over inaction on obesity

A sugar tax campaigner has blasted Health Minister David Clark over the Government's lack of action on obesity.

Dr Gerhard Sundborn told The AM Show he doesn't think Dr Clark, who has a PhD in theology, understands the portfolio.

"He doesn't have a handle of this issue, with a number of issues I think in health. It's underwhelming, to be honest."

He compared Dr Clark's performance to former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, who was also criticised throughout his tenure for a lack of action.

"I heard you say that you thought Coleman was asleep at the wheel and this minister is in a coma, I totally agree," he told host Duncan Garner.

"This Government has done nothing whatsoever to address obesity and with the issue of sugar they've talked to it, but they've actually done nothing whatsoever."

Dr Sundborn was speaking to The AM Show about renewed calls for New Zealand to have a sugar tax.

A new petition will be launched today by the New Zealand Beverage Guidance Panel asking the Government to introduce a tax.

Campaigners say a sugar tax will lead to a lowering of the sale of soft drinks, which in turn would lead to better health outcomes.

But opponents say the taxes do not work.

An NZIER report from August 2017 found the evidence a sugar tax leads to improved health is weak. It said, among other factors, there is no evidence consumers are not finding other high-calorie foods to eat.

"No study based on actual experience with sugar taxes has identified an impact on health outcomes," the report said.

Spokesperson Dr Simon Thornley told Newshub the tax in Mexico and the US has seen a 20 percent reduction in the sale of sugary drinks.

"The Cook Islands have done it, Tonga has done it, the policy just makes so much sense so we're calling on David Clark to do the right thing."

He said New Zealand is spending more than $20 million a year to anaesthetise children so they can have multiple teeth extracted.

"We've got waiting lists six months long, we're literally drowning in sugar and Government and the Health Minister seems to be asleep at the wheel."

Newshub has contacted David Clark for comment.