Taxing sugary drinks not the solution

 

Sir, – Prof Donal O’Shea contends “A tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, introduced in Mexico in 2014 has shown very encouraging results, reducing consumption by up to 12 per cent” (“Why we need a tax on sugary drinks”, Opinion & Analysis, August 10th). This is incorrect. Unit sales dropped by 1.9 per cent in the year the tax was introduced but bounced back by 0.5 per cent in 2015, according to official Mexican tax returns. The latest industry figures indicate soft-drink sales in Mexico now exceed those before the introduction of the tax. There has been no detectable impact on the body mass index (BMI), according to the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México.

While accepting a “tax on sugar-sweetened beverages alone will not impact obesity levels”, Prof O’Shea argues that revenue collected from an additional tax of soft drinks could be “ring-fenced to benefit other areas of child health”. He does this despite knowing the Department of Finance has been unequivocal in ruling out hypothecation of this type.

We recognise the significant health challenge posed by obesity and related disease in Ireland and are committed to playing our part in meeting it.

That is why we concentrate on interventions of proven efficacy such as reducing the sugar in our products, introducing low-calorie and no-calorie products and offering information which helps consumers make informed choices.

These are the efforts which have led to more than 50 per cent of soft drinks sold in Ireland to be low-calorie or no-calorie beverages, and reduced the amount of sugar ingested by 25,000 tonnes and calories consumed by 10 billion in the seven years to 2012 at no additional cost to the consumer.

Obesity is a complex challenge, and addressing it will take time and effort. It will not be solved by knee-jerk, quick-fix solutions such as taxation, which will simply divert industry from all the other positive and effective measures we can take to reduce sugar intake.

On that basis, the Government should avoid a sugar tax and work with us to provide real and evidence-based solutions. – Yours, etc,

KEVIN McPARTLAN,

Director of Irish

Beverage Council, Dublin 2.