Education, not taxes, the answer to better diets

Fighting Sugar in Soft Drinks (FIZZ) founder Dr Gerhard Sundborn said the harm sugar, especially sugary drinks, posed to health was in line with the harm tobacco presented to the population many years ago.

“The cost and the burdens of obesity have overtaken the burden that tobacco and smoking present because of the huge epidemic and the consequences of obesity like type 2 diabetes, gout, cardiovascular disease and caries (cavities).”

Speaking to the Herald ahead of this year’s FIZZ symposium, Taxing Sugary Drinks, he said getting people to stop drinking sugary drinks needed to be treated with the same urgency as smoking cessation.

Nothing wrong with a healthier diet with a lot less sugar in it.  But Whaleoil continues to question why there is such a jihad against sugary drinks and things like candy and fruit juices get to fly under the radar.  

Sundborn said sugary drinks were the single biggest contributor of sugar to people’s diets, making up about 26 per cent of the sugar intake of children and about 20 per cent for adults.

Because of that, he believed a tax on sugary drinks was needed in New Zealand.

“By targeting that one product you’re targeting the biggest contributor of sugar.”

Auckland University’s Dr Simon Thornley, a member of the New Zealand Beverage Guidance Council set up by FIZZ, said the group had looked at the research and concluded a tax on sugary drinks would help reduce the purchase of them.

The panel believed a tax of between 50 cents and $1 per litre would have a big enough impact to make a difference, he said.

Thornley too compared sugar’s harmful effects to tobacco saying it was hard to convince people it was a killer.

“I firmly believe that sugar is addictive, that people get used to a higher level of intake then they get withdrawal symptoms and it’s difficult for them to come off it and that’s what you see with tobacco.”

No government is going to impose a $2.25 level of tax on a 2.25l bottle of Fanta straight out of the gate.  If they are wanting parallels with tobacco, then they need to take a much longer view of it.  First get a small tax approved, like 20 cents per bottle.  Once people are used to it, then you slowly crank it up.

It took generations to change behaviour around tobacco.  It will take generations to do it around sugar.  But like tobacco, the real agent of change is education.  Simply hitting people in the pocket with a dollar or two here and there really isn’t going to make a difference.


– NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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