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Call to extend sugar tax as part of 'drastic actions' to tackle childhood obesity

The survey was part of a new document by the Irish Heart Foundation to tackle childhood obesity.

Image: Shutterstock/Alexander Prokopenko

MORE THAN SIX in ten people support the extension of the so-called ‘sugar tax’ on sweetened drinks to other products with a high sugar content.

An Ipsos MRBI poll carried out on behalf of the Irish Heart Foundation found that 64% supported extending the tax to other products, rising to 82% if the proceeds were spent on making healthy foods like fruit and vegetables cheaper.

The poll also found that 74% of people support removing unhealthy products from end of supermarket aisles and checkouts, while 89% support rules to make manufacturers reduce excessive levels of fat sugar and salt in products popular with children.

The polling was carried out as part of the Irish Heart Foundation’s Childhood Obesity Manifesto, which outlines plans to halve the rate of childhood obesity in the next ten years.

The document contains 58 recommendations which call for the fight against the obesity to be prioritised by the Government, a ban on unhealthy food and drink marketing to children, the restriction of price promotions, and an increased focus on nutrition.

The charity’s head of advocacy Chris Macey claimed that the Government’s target to reduce childhood obesity by half of one percent per year up to 2025 is not ambitious enough.

The annual cost of obesity to the State is estimated at over €1 billion per year, while the World Health Organisation predicts that 241,000 school children in Ireland will be affected by overweight and obesity by 2025.

“The people of Ireland have told the Government very clearly through our poll that they want a much bolder approach to tackling the obesity epidemic,” Macey said.

“The State’s own research estimates that 85,000 of this generation of children on the island of Ireland will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity. Only drastic action now will change their futures.”

The charity believes new legislation should be introduced to prohibit all forms of unhealthy food marketing to children online, along with a 9pm watershed for all food and beverage advertising.

They also highlight how restrictions on price promotions placement at checkouts and end-of-aisles can significantly reduce sales of junk products.

The HSE’s clinical lead on obesity, Professor Donal O’Shea said the Irish Heart Foundation’s aims could “turn the tide” on childhood obesity.

“This manifesto has the potential to be a game changer if people take it at face value,” he said.

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“It is the truth, simply spoken and crucially has been developed in cooperation with young people who it is ultimately for.”

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