Anna is a reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Tauranga pupils back call for sugar tax on fizzies

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School kids and health experts agree move needed to fight obesity problem.
Kamau Roberts, 10, of Bethlehem, thinks introducing a sugar tax on soft drinks in New Zealand is a good idea. Photo/Andrew Warner
Kamau Roberts, 10, of Bethlehem, thinks introducing a sugar tax on soft drinks in New Zealand is a good idea. Photo/Andrew Warner

After Britain introduced its sugar-levy on soft drinks, which is intended to be implemented in 2018, the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend asked children of Greenpark School what they thought of the idea being introduced in New Zealand.

Kamau Roberts, 10, of Bethlehem, said he thought a sugar tax on soft drinks would be beneficial for New Zealand kids.

"It's a good idea, so kids don't have enough money to spend on it," Kamau said.

"They should make the cost like alcohol, $23 a bottle," he said.

Maddy Athy-Knibbs, 10, of Pyes Pa said she thought "it would stop people getting really sick".

I've seen a lot of people who have had to get their teeth pulled out because of fizzy drinks.
Kayla Haig, 10

"Some kids really like sugar, but they're making themselves unhealthy," she said.

Kayla Haig, 10, of Pyes Pa agreed.

"I've seen a lot of people who have had to get their teeth pulled out because of fizzy drinks," she said.

All three children only would have soft drinks on special occasions.

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Director of SMART Nutrition and Registered Dietitian & Nutritionist Rebecca Bruce said: "Anything that deters New Zealanders from drinking fizzy drinks and other high sugar drinks can only be a good thing".

"You can buy fizzy drinks in New Zealand for less than the cost of milk or water but there is nothing good that comes out of drinking soft drinks.

"We know that fizzy drinks have played a major role in the obesity epidemic. Something needs to be done to tackle this problem at a government level," she said.

Toi Te Ora - Public Health Service Medical Officer of Health Dr Neil de Wet said New Zealand was facing a "sugar epidemic".

"Sugary drinks are a really big contributor to the risk of obesity and obesity in children. Drinking one sugary drink a day could increase the risk of obesity by 50 or 60 per cent and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 25 per cent," Dr de Wet said. "The future impact on health services is going to be enormous unless we do something really significant."

Dr de Wet said his personal and professional view was that a sugary drink tax would contribute to reducing obesity, and help protect the health of children.

"I think this is a really important issue and we need to take some courageous steps to make a difference."

Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman said in a statement that a sugar tax was "not something we're actively considering... We'll continue to keep a watching brief on the emerging evidence."

Dr Coleman said the government had implemented a Childhood Obesity Plan which spread across the private sector, communities, schools and families.

"We're now one of the few OECD countries to have a target and comprehensive plan on childhood obesity," he said.

Green Party candidate for Tauranga Ian McLean said: "Greens support any health initiative and also any policy that raises nutrition standards".

However, he said they did not support the tax if it "simply raises costs for low income people".

- Bay of Plenty Times

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