Calls have been increasing on the part of health campaigners to introduce a sugar tax in Ireland, targeting consumption of soft drinks, with the aim of tackling the issue of obesity. The UK is set to introduce a sugar tax in 2018, and similar measures have been imposed in other jurisdictions, though not always successfully.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that sales of fizzy drinks in Mexico have risen after two years despite a tax of around 10 per cent, though it has raised somewhere in the region of $2 billion. Denmark also introduced a sugar tax back in the 1930s, but announced its abolishment in 2013 due to losses incurred by illegal soft drink sales.
For or against?
In Ireland, the Irish Beverage Council (IBC) has highlighted its opposition to such measures and questioned its effectiveness, claiming that a sugar tax would increase costs for consumers and prove damaging to the economy, without sufficiently tackling the country’s obesity issues. “Taxation is a blunt instrument and is an inappropriate model to effectively deal with concerns on obesity in Ireland. As it cannot realistically be expected to reduce consumption of soft drinks, it will prove ineffective as a public health measure while harming the economy,” it said in a recent report.
In contrast, the Irish Heart Foundation has noted its disappointment with such responses, and highlighted why they believe a sugar tax would be beneficial in terms of reducing consumption and raising funds for health and nutrition programmes. “Right now we live in a country where obesity among children aged 8-12 years old has risen two-to-four fold since 1990 and it has to stop,” said Cliona Loughnane, policy and research manager with the Irish Heart Foundation. “Sugar sweetened drinks are the most consumed beverage in Ireland. These drinks, with no nutritional value, are being consumer by 53 per cent of four year olds and 75 per cent of 5 to 18 year olds.
So who is to be believed? TheJournal.ie has produced a fact check of the various claims made by parties on both sides of the argument, and examines the sugar taxes imposed in various countries around the world.
In Ireland’s case, the introduction of a sugar tax will likely be postponed until the UK brings in its own measures, with concerns over the impact on cross-border trade should Ireland make the first move.
Watch this space.