Taxing sugary drinks

 

Sir, – Your editorial on a single study of the UK’s soft drink industry levy needs to be put in context (“Taxing sugary drinks”, December 20th).

A review of 880 scientific and academic studies concluded that the public health case for using economic instruments to promote dietary and physical activity behaviour change may be less compelling than some proponents have claimed.

There is simply no evidence that tax reduces obesity levels.

Mexico is often held up as an example of a tax on soft drinks. Yet after introducing a tax on soft drinks in 2014, its obesity rate is still climbing.

A tax on sugar-sweetened drinks is a way of looking tough on obesity, without actually being tough on obesity.

As an industry, we recognise the multi-factorial challenge of obesity and are fully committed to playing our part.

Although only 3 per cent of our total calorific intake comes from soft drinks, we’ve invested in reformulating existing products and introducing new ones containing less or no sugar.

The Irish soft drinks industry has removed 10 billion calories and 2,500 tonnes of sugar from our national diet.

Experts, from the World Health Organisation to the European Commission, acknowledge that rising obesity levels are due to a wide range of factors, with no single solution.

To tackle obesity successfully, we need a co-ordinated, multistakeholder approach to change behaviour, improve diet and lead healthy lifestyles. A tax does none of these.

The proposed sugar-sweetened drinks tax is poorly targeted, inefficient and inequitable.

As a regressive tax, it would hit poorer and fixed-income families hardest.

If we are to honestly tackle our obesity problem, we need a multi-stakeholder approach, to work together for the healthy weight for Ireland action plan. – Yours, etc,

COLM JORDAN,

Director,

Irish Beverage Council,

Baggot Street, Dublin 2.