14 Mar 2021

Sugar taxes work overseas, and can here - Dental Association

2:41 pm on 14 March 2021

Sugar taxes work overseas, and should be introduced here based on already successful models, the Dental Association has told the Government.

Sugar: we eat 37 teaspoons a day of added sugar.

Sugar: we eat 37 teaspoons a day of added sugar. Photo: Supplied

A new report, led by the researchers from the University of Cambridge and published in the British Medical Journal, found the UK's tax on sugary drinks resulted in a 10 percent decrease in peoples' sugar consumption.

The British government pushed through [https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2018638824/taxing-sugary-drinks the levy in April 2018.

It is a two-tiered tax levied on soft drinks manufacturers, to encourage them to reduce the sugar content in their products.

The study found one year on from that tax coming into effect, the overall volume of soft drinks being purchased did not change, but the actual sugar levels did, by about 10 percent, per household.

There has long been a campaign to introduce a similar levy here in New Zealand.

Campaigners argued a tax would help fight against childhood obesity, as well as tooth decay and diabetes.

A French study has in the past concluded that sugary drinks could increase the risk of cancer.

However, thinktank The New Zealand Initiative has argued that any sugar tax could reduce consumption, but not obesity.

In New Zealand, successive governments have ruled out introducing a tax - including the current administration, which made an election promise to not bring in any new taxes.

Rob Beaglehole: the war against sugary drinks

Dr Rob Beaglehole Photo: Tim Cuff

But Dental Association spokesperson Dr Rob Beaglehole said they should reconsider.

"We know that at least 8000 children have a general anaesthetic to have their teeth taken out.

"Sugary drinks are the number one source of sugar in New Zealand, and this is the reason why New Zealand Dental Association is calling on the Government taking measures to reduce sugary drink consumption."

And while a tax is the best way of doing that, he said it's not the only way.

"Other ways include marketing and sponsorship advertising restrictions on junk food. What we're really calling on is the government to show leadership, and instigate a water-only policy in all schools."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs