We have done this with the support of health professionals and organisations who have been calling for a tax for some time, including Diabetes New Zealand, the Heart Foundation and the New Zealand Dental Association.

A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) has been widely debated. Naysayers have always said it won't work; there's no evidence to show it will lower obesity. Plus, it's nanny-state-ism. Don't tell me what I can and can't drink.

I understand and respect those opinions, but I disagree. There is evidence to show a tax on SSBs does reduce consumption. When Mexico introduced a 10 per cent tax in 2014, consumption went down 12 per cent by year's end.


In lower-income groups the effect was even greater, at 17 per cent. Consumption of bottled water rose by 4 per cent.

It is true there's not direct evidence - yet - that a tax reduces obesity. It's too early to tell, of course. But this seems promising.

To the nanny-state issue: so what? I recently watched a 10-year-old girl on UK TV demolish a seasoned interviewer's points about a sugar tax with an argument about seat belts. "Do you remember when seat belts were made compulsory?" she asked.

"It wasn't a popular idea. People didn't like it. But do you know how many lives it saved a year?"

As an idea, this one is getting a lot more popular. Last week, a Herald poll showed 83 per cent of respondents in favour of a tax, the highest I've seen.

It is bizarre to hear some say a tax would hurt people on low incomes. If a tax makes anyone reconsider buying something that has zero benefit to their own or their family's health, how is that hurting?

I get that a sugary drink is a treat in some families. Surely a price increase would help position it as even more of a treat, something we have occasionally, not every day?

The anti-business argument is also hard to swallow. I've met people who work in drinks companies. They are smart, nice people, and many have kids. They know their full-sugar product is not something anyone should drink often.


And they already see the writing on the wall. They're coming up with clever low- and no-sugar products that are forming an increasingly large part of their sales.

In the end it's hard to see who would be hurt by a tax on sugary drinks and it's not hard to see there might be some real benefits.

It's not a "silver bullet". Nothing is. But it's one piece of the puzzle that might mean fewer kids going under general anaesthetic to have teeth pulled out and fewer kids living shorter lives than their parents.

It's time to be brave and do it.

Niki Bezzant is editor in chief of Healthy Food Guide.
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