The Sugar Tax

Has the introduction of this tax, made any effect on people’s habits?  I’m not so sure, miniscule at best in my opinion?  It has raised €32 million for the government in the first year, however none of it has been spent on tackling obesity, see Irish Times article here

So, while it’s a great revenue spinner for the government, it’s unlikely to have any significant effect on reducing obesity.  With 3 in every 5 Irish adults overweight, personally, I would prefer to see an approach similar to cigarettes and alcohol.  Maybe a law removing high sugar treats from the counter in shops and supermarkets, or restricting advertisements?  Or maybe reducing multi pack sizes or purchases? Would tax incentives to join a gym or sports club help? The bike to work scheme has certainly been a great success.

We’ve all impulse bought items at counters in shops, some people do it every day.  It’s human nature to grab something that’s convenient and nowadays, very affordable. These chocolate bars and sweets wouldn’t be at the counter, if it didn’t work very well at getting us to purchase.  We can still choose to go to the back of the shop and buy it, but if it’s not there right in front of us, it’s easier to ignore.

It won’t affect people who purchase in bulk, these high sugar foods in their weekly shop.  Take a look around you next time you’re in the supermarket and you’ll see people filling their trolleys with huge bags of crisps, chocolates, sugary cereals, drinks and sweets.  At the end of the day, we’re going to be paying for that family’s diabetes treatment, a lifetime of medication, GP and hospital visits, maybe we should have a say in what they buy in their weekly shop? 

Obesity costs us over 1 billion euro per year! -This is the most up to date figure I can find but given that its back from 2012, may be outdated.  However, it’ll certainly be costing a vast amount. 1 billion can seem like an insignificant number, but to put it into context, 1 million seconds is 11 and a half days.  1 billion seconds is 32 years.

Educating people is key, but that takes generations to change.  Culture and education will change, but in the meantime, laws restricting sale and supply would no doubt work.  Shop keepers, manufacturers and pharmaceuticals have huge influence on our politicians.  Improving health and reducing it’s cost is a long process, with savings in health care not benefitting a sitting government….  

However, we were the first country in the world to pioneer tackling cigarettes, maybe we can do the same with sugar?

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author: Andy Kenny