Renewed support for sugar tax survey shows

Author: Nivashni Nair

Support for the government’s plan to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks has grown “significantly” since last year‚ a new survey has found.

On Thursday, Healthy Living Alliance (Heala) said its survey of 1,000 people‚ conducted in July‚ found that support for the tax has grown by 16%.

“A total of 58% of survey participants approve unconditionally of the sugary drinks tax‚ while only 29% oppose it, and the remainder take a neutral position,” the alliance said. “Support for the tax has grown in recent months: a comparable survey, conducted in October 2016, found that 42% of respondents favoured a sugary drinks tax.”

Heala co-ordinator Tracey Malawana said the results have shown that South Africans “have totally got the idea that this is a well-intentioned tax that could improve the health of the nation”, she said. “The debate on the proposed tax on sugary drinks has certainly raised public awareness of the sheer sugar-load these drinks carry and their harmful impact on health.”

Earlier this year, former finance minister Pravin Gordhan said the tax would be implemented later this year once details were finalised and legislation passed. The Treasury proposed introducing a threshold that would make the first 4g of sugar per 100ml of a beverage exempt from the tax, with 100% fruit juices and milk products being exempt.

Heala also found that six out of 10 people surveyed in Gauteng‚ KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape were “very concerned” or “extremely concerned” about the impact of sugary drinks on their health.

The network of health organisations believes that imposing a tax would discourage the consumption of sugary drinks, thus curbing obesity. However‚ the beverages industry has argued that taxing just sugary drinks is not enough to stop obesity.

Industry representatives told the standing committees on finance and health‚ presiding over the debate‚ that the tax could lead to significant job losses and a negative impact on the economy.

Source: Business Day