Tame wrong on sugar tax

writes in the Herald:

We are definitely too fat. Our diabetes rates are too high. Our heart-disease numbers are terrible. We’re fat and we need to tax sugar soon-as.

News flash: taxing stuff works. If you haven’t been to Europe lately, you’ll probably not be surprised to hear that cigarettes are generally much cheaper there than they are in New Zealand.

You’ll also not be surprised to hear more Europeans than New Zealanders haven’t yet kicked the smoking habit. Funny that.

Tame is write that if you tax something people consume less of it. But where his argument falls down is substitution.

Mexico is doing better. It’s one of the few countries fatter than us. The average person gets through half a litre of fizzy drink every day.

In Mexico it’s not unusual to see someone drinking Coke for breakfast.

But Mexico slapped a 10 per cent tax on sugary drinks. In just a year, sales dropped 6 per cent and in lower-income communities where people are generally more affected, the impact was even larger.

Tame is wrong on two fronts. The first is that actually consumption of soda drinks has not decreased in Mexico.

But even if it has, that does not mean Mexicans are less obese. They just eat or drink something else.

In NZ only 1.6% of total energy intake comes from sugar drinks. You could tax them or ban them all you like, and it won’t reduce obesity at all. In fact sugar consumption has been dropping in NZ, while obesity rates are increasing.

It’s draft woolly thinking that you can reduce obesity by targeting just one area of energy.

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