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Is Treasury targeting your fizzy drinks with a sugar tax increase this year?

12 February 2020 5:22 PM
Tags:
Sugar tax
Budget
Treasury
Healthy Living Alliance
Heala
Heala is lobbying government to not only raise the tax, but apply it to fruit juices with high sugar content as well.

We know that the over-consumption of sugar contributes to some of South Africa's most serious health problems like obesity and diabetes.

But is the "sugar tax" (health promotion levy) which was introduced in 2018 to target carbonated soft drinks actually convincing consumers to buy less sugary, fizzy beverages?

RELATED: Here's how the sugar tax works in practice

The Healthy Living Alliance (Heala) is lobbying government to increase the tax to 20% and also to broaden the scope to apply to fruit juices with a high sugar content as well.

The organisation handed a memorandum with 17,000 signatures to Treasury to prove public support for its increased sugar tax drive.

Heala progammes manager Lawrence Mbalatihas says they've not received a definitive answer, being told only that the document will be presented for the minister to "apply his mind"

This is not just a quick way of making money in the fiscus for Treasury with South Africa having so many socio-economic challenges... We're saying to Treasury we are giving you ways in which you can increase revenue and ensure most South Africans are safer.

Lawrence Mbalati, Programmes manager - Healthy Living Alliance

He says it's still too early in South Africa's case to assess the impact of the sugar tax, but maintains that "taxes work".

For example if we look at tobacco: four people out of ten were smoking when the tax on tobacco - that is incremental every year - was introduced. It's [now] two people out of ten who are smoking.

Lawrence Mbalati, Programmes manager - Healthy Living Alliance

The sugar tax has been implemented in many other countries. We have data, for example, in the UK that demonstrates that a stronger tax will always result in curbing consumption of sugary drinks.

Lawrence Mbalati, Programmes manager - Healthy Living Alliance

If excessive sugar is causing people to be sick... the government has to make sure that they regulate.

Lawrence Mbalati, Programmes manager - Healthy Living Alliance

Faced with the argument by the pro-sugar lobby that in Mexico for instance, while consumption initially dropped it later evened out to pre-tax levels, Mbalati acknowledges that a sugar tax is not a silver bullet.

He says it needs to be implemented in combination with other interventions such as raising awareness and changing social norms.

Listen to Mbalati's argument on Afternoon Drive with John Maytham:


12 February 2020 5:22 PM
Tags:
Sugar tax
Budget
Treasury
Healthy Living Alliance
Heala

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