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What good is ‘health tax’?


CARL HARPER

What good is ‘health tax’?

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IT IS DIFFICULT TO SEE how “introducing a ten per cent excise tax on beverages with added high-calorie sweeteners” will do anything other than putting revenue into Government coffers – $10 million.

Governments continue to make the mistake – perhaps deliberately so – that to impose a “health tax” will reduce consumption and promote a healthy lifestyle. That approach has failed with cigarettes and cancers, and will have minimal effect on reducing the incidence of diabetes and other chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs).

The predicament for governments is to maintain the beverage industry and save jobs while, at the same time, dealing with the rising incidence and prevalence of CNCDs. It’s a delicate balancing act.

People will continue drinking their quantum of sodas as was seen when other factors caused price increases. There is an irresistible addiction to these beverages that makes quitting drinking them difficult. It is similar to smoking cigarettes and consuming alcohol.

A better approach would be to work with local beverage companies to reduce the sugar content in their juices and soft drinks, and offer incentives to provide healthier options. Restrictions can be placed on imported drinks without the required nutritional value and caloric sweetener above the stipulated amounts.

There is nothing wrong with legislating the maximum sugar (and salt) content in locally manufactured drinks (and foods) to reduce the troubling and costly diabetes and hypertension problems, if moral suasion fails. Continuing public education remains key.

There are those who will say Government has no business determining people’s nutritional choices, but it is everybody’s business when the state has to bear the brunt of costs for treatment and medications.

This tax on carbonated and sugary drinks to encourage healthier lifestyles only serves to generate revenue for a cash-strapped government and sidestep tackling the problem of CNCDs, head-on.

– CARL HARPER

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