Diabetes association welcomes sugar tax
A tax on sugar introduced in Mexico in 2013 cut sales of sodas by 12 per cent — now the Bermuda Diabetes Association hopes a similar policy could do the same for Bermuda. It comes after the Throne Speech revealed that the Government would begin a consultation for the introduction of a sugar tax on the sale of certain foods and beverages in Bermuda.
Diabetes educator and chairwoman of the Bermuda Diabetes Association, Debbie Jones, said: “The sugar debate is huge and we seriously have to look at this and help the public understand that this is not one more way of a government finding money but that it is borne out of a government wanting the best for its people.
“Every country, every health authority has the responsibility for its citizens and to ensure that they are safe and healthy.
“Putting a tax on sugar may seem draconian, but I can’t see any other way of making the public aware of the importance of limiting sugar.”
Pointing to the island’s obesity problem and rising rates of diabetes, she said the island needs to be serious about helping to make the public healthy.
“We simply cannot afford the rising costs of healthcare especially when with some simple changes like exercising every day and drinking water could have such a positive impact.”
Ms Jones said the World Health Organisation recommends that women should have no more than six teaspoons of added sugar and men no more than nine.
She added: “One soda has ten teaspoons of added sugar.”
She said: “A sugar tax may not be popular in some sectors, but the positive gain for the health of our public outweighs this hands down.”
Ms Jones explained that a sugar tax is seen as a deterrent to drinking sodas.
“From 2000 to 2006 diabetes had doubled in Mexico and obesity among children aged 5 to 11 had risen by 40 per cent.
“By December 2014, sugary soda sales were down by 12 per cent and Mexicans were buying 17 per cent less sweetened soda.
“Mexico is now campaigning to increase the sugar tax on sugary beverages and lower the price of bottled water.”
According to Ms Jones, studies have shown that a 35 per cent tax on regular soft drinks resulted in sales of these beverages going down by 26 per cent.
She said Bermuda should follow New Zealand’s example, where “water is available in all restaurants and cafés for the public to help themselves at no charge”.
“We need to encourage the general public to drink water. Water needs to be available, accessible and affordable.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if arriving guests to the island could be given a water bottle and a map of hydration stations, paid for from the tax on sugary drinks.
“Bermuda would not only be encouraging a healthy lifestyle, but would also be playing its part in cutting down on plastic.”
The UK announced a sugar tax in the budget of March last year, which is expected to raise the equivalent of more than $691 million a year.
The levy is squarely aimed at high-sugar drinks, particularly fizzy drinks, which are popular among teenagers.
Pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks will be excluded and the smallest producers will have an exemption from the scheme.
The tax will be imposed on companies according to the volume of the sugar-sweetened drinks they produce or import.
There are two tax bands, one for total sugar content above 5g per 100 millilitres and a higher band for the most sugary drinks with more than 8g per 100 millilitres.
The tax will be levied at the equivalent of 24 cents and 32 cents per litre for the highest sugar drinks.
Examples of drinks which would at present fall under the higher rate include full-strength Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Lucozade Energy and Irn-Bru.
The lower rate would catch drinks such as Dr Pepper, Fanta, Sprite and Schweppes Indian tonic water.