Sugar tax revenue earmarked for health initiatives
About $3.6 million has been raised through the introduction of the sugar tax, the Ministry of Health has revealed.Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said some of the cash will be earmarked for health-related initiatives.Ms Wilson added: “We continue to invest in health promotion efforts, such as the ‘Taking it to the Streets’ initiative, which provides free health screenings, and are looking at doing more social marketing.”She added the full amount raised from the tax would not be known until the end of the financial year. Ms Wilson said that then “the Ministry of Finance will have the data to inform funding decisions”.She added that there had been signs that the sugar tax had helped to steer the public towards healthier choices.Ms Wilson said: “An Omnibus survey showed that sugary drink consumption was 42 per cent in 2019, which is a reduction from 50 per cent of adults drinking one or more sugary drinks a day in 2014. “The reduction was greatest among men where it went down from 59 per cent to 36 per cent. “This is a positive indication that behaviours are changing favourably.”Ms Wilson added that the number of sugar-free options had increased, and discussion of the tax has helped educate the public on the dangers of sugar.She said: “Just like tobacco use decreased from 22 per cent in 1999 before smoking was banned in public places, to now 13 per cent, so we hope to see improvements in reduced consumption of sugary drinks and reduced obesity and life-style diseases in the long run.”Ms Wilson added that Bermuda had won plaudits overseas for its introduction of the tax.She said: “Bermuda received a ‘Walk the Talk Award’ from the Healthy Caribbean Coalition for the introduction of the sugar tax as excellence in non-communicable disease prevention. “Public Health England and the Pan American Health Organisation are very interested in our sugar tax because it went beyond just sugary beverages. “PHE has commissioned Imperial College London to do an independent evaluation of Bermuda’s sugar tax and we anticipate that work to begin soon.”Bruce Barritt of soft drinks firm John Barritt and Sons said the company was still evaluating the sales impact of the tax.He added: “We have not seen a noticeable shift from sweetened sodas to diet sodas, but sales of flavoured sparkling waters, which have natural fruit flavour but no sweeteners of any kind, such as Perrier and Dasani have increased. That mirrors what is happening in the American beverage market.”Mr Barritt said the firm’s biggest worry was the change in Bermuda’s demographics.He said: ‘We have an ageing population and continuing stagnation in resident population figures. “Fewer consumers living on the island means all manner of local businesses have less potential to make sales, provide services or hire staff.”The first phase of the sugar tax came into effect in October 2018, with increased duty on sugar, sweets and sweetened drinks. Duty on sugar-laden products increased again in April 2019, which added chocolate and cocoa products to the sugar tax list.