I was disappointed to hear Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern say last week that the Government has ruled out a tax on sugary drinks.
She was reinforcing the position previously stated by Health Minister David Clark. Inexplicably, instead of a tax, the plan is to "work with the food industry" to reduce the sugar in our food supply and develop better food labelling.
As a plan, in my opinion, that is pretty weak.
There's an opportunity here to be bold and do something decisive – maybe even transformational - about the serious health problems acknowledged by everyone.
We are spending $20 million annually putting little kids under general anaesthetic to remove their rotten teeth. Obesity and type 2 diabetes are at epidemic levels. It's widely accepted that sugar in food and drinks contributes to these problems.
Shall we try and find a health expert in this space who hasn't either recommended a sugary drinks tax or said they support it? Organisations as diverse as the World Health Organization and Credit Suisse have recommended a tax. Governments around the world have implemented taxes.
Recent research also shows close to two thirds of Kiwis support a tax on sugary drinks. That's grown since I presented a 10,000-signature petition on this issue two years ago (that's still languishing inside Parliament, waiting to go before a committee).
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I used to say a sugary-drinks tax would be a move for a brave government. But actually, it won't even take much bravery.
The people support a tax. The experts support a tax. The only people who don't support a tax are, as expected, the people making sugary drinks - the same people the government wants to work with to solve the problem. I can't be the only one seeing a disconnect here, surely?
Now a group of health experts have got sick of waiting and watching kids' teeth rot and their fellow Kiwis getting fatter and sicker. The University of Auckland's Dr Gerhard Sundborn and the New Zealand Beverage Guidance Panel has launched another petition for a tax on sugary drinks.
That's in the wake of research published by Sundborn and colleagues which highlighted that sugar in drinks is more dangerous than sugar in foods. Their paper also revealed consumption of sugary drinks, specifically energy drinks, sports drinks and juice, is still rising in New Zealand.
Do we seriously think that ignoring all this and tinkering with labelling is going to solve this problem? Research shows sugary drink consumers are even less likely than others to read labels. Maybe something like a "teaspoons of sugar" icon to denote added sugar could have impact – but can you imagine that ever getting industry buy-in?
As I and many others have said many times, a tax on sugary drinks won't solve anything on its own. But it will – as part of a desperately needed broader plan of attack on our health epidemics – have an impact. There's been inaction on this for far too long.
• Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide; www.healthyfood.com