herald

Friday 2 December 2016

Six out of 10 people 'support new tax on fizzy drinks'

Most people now favour a tax on sugar sweetened drinks, the poll found
Most people now favour a tax on sugar sweetened drinks, the poll found

A growing number of people support a new tax on fizzy drinks, a poll has revealed.

Almost six out of 10 people are in favour of the introduction of a sugar-sweetened drinks tax to help reduce childhood obesity, according to the poll for the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF).

The poll of 1,000 people was carried out to coincide with the launch of the IHF pre-Budget submission, which calls for a 20pc sugar-sweetened drinks tax, with revenue estimated at €44.5m being earmarked to establish a children's 'future health' fund. This would finance various schemes such as fruit and vegetable subsidies and community food programmes.

The IHF said it is clear that people believe not enough is being done to tackle the issue of obesity.

"It is extraordinary that, after all the financial pain people have suffered in the aftermath of Ireland's economic collapse, after all the extra taxes, levies and charges that have been imposed on us, the Irish public would support any new tax whatsoever," said its head of advocacy, Chris Macey.

"From the size of the majority in favour it is crystal clear that people don't think the State is doing enough to tackle the obesity problem and that stronger action and leadership is required," Mr Macey said.

The Ipsos MRBI poll, which was carried out last month, confirmed that public support for the tax has jumped in the last 12 months.

When respondents were asked whether they would support the tax if the revenue raised was spent on initiatives to fund healthy diets among children, support increased to 76pc in favour, with 22pc against and 2pc who "don't know".

In total, 83pc of people believed that sugar-sweetened drinks contribute to obesity among children and young people.

Consultant paediatric endocrinologist Professor Edna Roche said the fact is that these drinks play a unique role in fuelling obesity.

"They have little or no nutritional value but are packed full of calories, and children who consume these drinks receive around 20pc of their recommended daily sugar intake from them. Furthermore, it's estimated that each extra can or glass consumed daily increases a child's risk of becoming obese by 60pc," he said.

According to the national heart and stroke charity, a health impact assessment for the Department of Health found that a 20pc additional tax on sugar-sweetened drinks would reduce obesity by three per cent in adults alone - the equivalent of 22,000 people.

It said that such a tax would have an even greater impact if the proceeds are spent on initiatives to tackle obesity.

The body has proposed a children's future health fund which would finance a number of different schemes.

In relation to school food, it wants a removal of all junk food and fizzy drinks, and an extension of the existing nutritious food provision models.

Vending

It is proposing a removal of vending machines, and that small grants be given to schools to cover the income lost.

Its proposals also include the introduction of 'no fry' zones within one kilometre of schools.

"At present, 75pc of Irish schools have at least one, and 30pc have at least five, fast food outlets within one kilometre," the IHF said.

The body also wants to see the introduction of subsidies for fruit and vegetables, targeted at disadvantaged communities where obesity levels are almost three times higher than in better off communities.

In relation to marketing to children, the IHF has proposed a ban on TV ads, product placement and sponsorship of food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar from 6am to 9pm.

It also wants a review of school PE provision to boost rates in Ireland.

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