Katie Shevlin: Tax is a sweet policy

By Katie Shevlin

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Childhood obesity won't be solved by this "sugar tax", but it's a step in the right direction.
Childhood obesity won't be solved by this "sugar tax", but it's a step in the right direction.

Despite having the 'sugar-is-poison' mentality drilled into me by my very health-conscious mother - who I now thank for my lack of fillings but at the time I felt the lack of chocolate cereals in our house was very unfair - I confess I still have a snack drawer in the office filled with all manner of treats.

However, I know they are a treat and (most of the time) I can exercise enough willpower to dip into the selection just once or twice a week. I imagine children, when given a bit of pocket money and the freedom to roam to the local dairy, will not exercise such self-restraint.

This is why I am hugely supportive of Britain's decision, announced last week, to implement a sugar-levy on soft drinks. The British Government plans to spend the 530 million (over $1.1 billion) per year raised by the soft drink tax on primary school sports in England.

Since this announcement, there have been many calls for the New Zealand Government to consider a similar sugar levy.

On Saturday, the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend asked children at Greenpark School what they thought of the idea, and many saw it as a good thing.

The 2014/15 New Zealand Health Survey found that one in nine children aged 2-14 is obese, and a further 22 per cent of children are overweight. The New Zealand Government should be doing everything it can to lower this statistic.

Of course, childhood obesity won't be solved by this "sugar tax", but it's a step in the right direction. We should be making every effort to curb children's intake of the sweet stuff. Not only does sugar have no nutritional benefits, it can have negative effects on your teeth, liver, skin, hormones, insulin levels and is highly addictive. Why would we let children put this stuff into their bodies?

Although there is no evidence to support that higher tax on sugary drinks will lead to a decrease in obesity or diabetes, how could it possibly be a bad thing?

On a psychological level, making sugary drinks more expensive also reinforces the idea in children's minds that these drinks should be a treat and not a part of daily life.

In recent years, some British supermarkets have also banned chocolate bars and sweets from the checkout area to prevent impulse buys and remove confectionary from children's line of sight. Supermarkets here should follow suit.

Small moves like this will make a world of difference in changing children's habits and help to set them up for a healthier lifestyle.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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