Today I welcomed Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar’s support for a sugary drinks levy.
This is something that I have been hoping for and campaigning for, for some time.
I believe that a sugar tax would make a real difference in the battle against obesity. Such a tax was introduced in Mexico in October 2013 to combat its alarming obesity problem. It proved successful with a reported 10% decline in sugary beverage consumption in the first three months of its implementation alone.
Today’s Healthy Ireland survey from the Department of Health highlights yet again the problem this country is facing in terms of obesity. It found that 60% of Irish people are overweight. The World Health Organisation recently predicted Ireland would be the fattest nation in Europe by 2030.
Sugary drinks are a major contributory factor to obesity levels. According to the World Health Organisation adults should eat less than the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar a day if they are to avoid health risks such as weight gain. Yet one can of Coke alone, contains approximately 8 teaspoons of sugar.
I’m delighted to hear the Minister for Health is in favour of the introduction of a levy on sugary drinks and that he has written to Finance Minister Michael Noonan asking for a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.
I feel this will be a very important step in tackling obesity. I am calling for the revenue generated to be ring-fenced to fund a nationwide and impactful health eating campaign. Some of the funds should also be used to install water fountains in schools that currently do not have them.