A Herald business debate published on whether New Zealand needs a sugar tax showed that readers are almost evenly split on the issue.

Read: Business Debate: Should NZ Introduce a sugar tax?

Of the 1000-plus readers who cast a vote, 49 per cent said that they did want a sugar tax while 45 per cent said that they didn't. The remaining 6 per cent said they were uncertain on the issue.

Once again, a number of readers found this issue important enough to type a few words on their thoughts. (The responses have been lightly edited for readability).


Here's a rundown of what a few Herald readers think:

Luke Cochrane:

As with all armchair specialists, I have an opinion on this but it comes a little more from actual real-world experience. While I see both points of view, I think that there is one massive thing that people are forgetting that has been proved by the smoking taxes:
if people want it, they will buy it.

To say that evidence shows the results are "weak" for a sugar tax is only looking at one side of the argument. The simple fact is that the health concerns connected to obesity, diabetes and heart disease are huge and far-reaching problems that involve both physical and mental elements. And those problems are expensive to fix. So, where should the money come from?

Also, I think, we are all forgetting the question of whether food manufacturers should pay the tax instead of general consumers. This then makes the food manufacturers liable for the new tax to begin with and if they then decide to pass that on then that is for those global manufacturers to explain to the consumer.

Over the last two years, I have gone through weight loss surgery and that meant that I had to learn the ways that the general consumer is tricked on a day-to-day basis to buy "healthy products" while the true impact is hidden to all but those that know how to look for it. I take the example of the Consumer NZ study on breakfast drinks done recently.

The medical costs for sugar-related illness have to come from somewhere and why shouldn't the global food manufacturers have to pay for the impact on the sugar that they put into their food? The whole point of the tax on tobacco was not only to stop people from smoking but to gain funds to help pay for the people who do. Yes, it is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff but for people already over the cliff edge what other thing is there?

Satya Gonuguntla:


An alternative to sugar tax would be rationing.

Each family depending on the number of members may be issued with coupons/vouchers which will enable them to buy only a certain quantity each week/month.

The consumption of the sugary drinks can be restricted to a healthy quantity, for example two litres per head per month for an adult, and one litre per child per month.

There would be some admin costs but these costs may be less than the costs to the health system. A detailed study is required.


I am just above normal weight.


I realise that we have far too many obese people in NZ and that far too many products have too much added sugar.

Examples would be bread, sauce, baked beans and cereals.

But I am against a sugar tax because it will hurt all New Zealanders and will not stop people from buying the products. It will just hurt poorer people.

I am also in favour of a labelling system.

For example, on a can of Coke it should say there are six teaspoons of sugar in this can.

This is better than a "per 100g" approach, which no one can understand.


I like that graduated warning/tax system as proposed in your article by one of the presenters.

What debate would you like to see next? Email your suggestions to business@nzherald.co.nz