So yesterday the 2018 budget was announced in Ireland. One of the new charges which were introduced was a sugar tax on fizzy drinks.
A charge of 20c per litre will be placed on drinks with 5-8g of sugar per 100ml and the tax will commence in April 2018 in a similar move the UK took last year, pending State aid approval. There will also be 30c a litre on drinks with more than 8g of sugar per litre will kick in in Ireland from April.
Here is a breakdown of the charges which will be added.
|Drink||Sugar per 100ml (g)||Tax added (euro cents)|
|Lipton Iced Tea||5.3||20|
Now, this is a controversial tax, to say the least. Sure it may just be another way for the government to line their pockets but we need to ask ourselves why this tax is necessary? And will it make any difference? Let’s take a look at the sales of fizzy or soda in 2006 in Ireland the average intake per person was 109 litres. 109 litres of empty calories. Let’s say those litres were coke that’s 11.5kg of sugar per year! So is there a need for the tax on sugar? I say hell yea!
The one thing that would maybe clarify this tax in the mind of the Irish people would be to name it something else by calling it a “sugar tax” seems to imply to people that we are making sugar the enemy that is it all round bad. As I’ve said on my blog several times there is no such thing as good and bad when it comes to macronutrients the key is everything in moderation. Perhaps they could have called it a fizzy drink tax that would be fairer as fizzy drinks are the enemy. They have no benefit in maintaining health, they are addictive and along with fried fatty goods are a key contributor to heart disease and diabetes.
What I do worry about with this tax it that it may promote the consumption of sugar-free varieties of soft drinks. There is a misconception that sugar-free is good and in the same way, as fat-free this is not always the case. The majority of people look at what they eat and categorise it into either “Fattening” or “not-fattening”. I only wish that this could be changed to “healthy and unhealthy” The majority of diet drinks would belong in the not healthy category. Used in moderation these artificial sweeteners will lower the net calories in your overall diet and could help in maintaining a healthy body weight and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke but there is more here than meets the eye. The “missed” calories in the food may be replaced in other foods with people thinking I drank diet cola so now I deserve that slice of cake. There is also a theory that states that eating these artificial sugars misleads your brain into thinking you have consumed natural sugar which when broken down into its simplest form glucose is the only type of sugar your brain can metabolise for energy. This could lead to a multitude of problems – your brain is not an organ you want to trick!
Further education is key in reducing obesity and diabetes in Ireland where they are fast becoming epidemics. In 2016 there were 118million obese adults spread among five countries Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, US and Ireland. In Ireland, 854,165 adults over 40 in Ireland are at a risk of or have Type 2 Diabetes. In 90% of cases, diabetes appears to be avoidable. Although there has been much research in helping those who have diabetes live with the condition, it appears that there is much still to be done in preventing those people developing the condition. These measures must be done at a worldwide level. Measures such an introduction of this sugar tax may be just the ticket to prevent this epidemic.
Though educating people on sugar and basic nutrition would be beneficial this isn’t always possible and not always effective. I know good and bad and I still am inclined to reach for the bad from time to time particularly if it is the same price or maybe even cheaper than the good. People whether we like it or not are more inclined to take notice when our wallet is feeling the pinch than our trousers are pinching our hips.
The journal.ie conducted a survey asking:
“Will the sugar tax make you cut down on fizzy drinks?”
Will the sugar tax have any effect on the prevalence of diabetes and other obesity-related diseases in Ireland? Only time will tell. Till then I for one believe this is a step in the right direction.