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Majority of people believe Ireland should bring in a sugar tax

54% of people in Ireland want to see the tax introduced.

A SUGAR TAX is expected to be announced by Michael Noonan in this Tuesday’s budget, a revenue-raising exercise and a response to the growing problem of obesity in Ireland.

And, according to the latest Claire Byrne Live/Amárach poll for TheJournal.ie, it will be a move welcomed by a majority across the country.

Asked whether Ireland should bring in a tax on fizzy drinks, 54% of the 1,000 respondents said Yes.

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Noonan has already signalled that the levy will not be introduced until at least 2018 in order to bring it onto the same timeline as a similar charge planned in the UK.

Health authorities and officials have been making calls for a tax on all sugar-sweetened drinks (SSDs) for years, with the Royal College of Physicians warning in 2015 that Ireland could become the fattest country in Europe by 2030 if urgent action isn’t taken.

The past two Ministers of Health have also urged the Finance Minister to introduce the measure.

Last month, an exposé of decades-old documents revealed that the sugar industry began funding research to play down sugar’s role in heart disease as early as the 1960s. It did so by shifting the blame and getting scientists to point the finger at cholesterol and saturated fat – without disclosing connections with or funding from the sugar industry.

In an editorial, New York University professor of nutrition Marion Nestle has noted that for decades following the study, scientists and health officials focused on reducing saturated fat, not sugar, to prevent heart disease.

While scientists are still working to understand links between diet and heart disease, concern has shifted in recent years to sugars, and away from fat, Nestle added.

The UK’s tax will be on drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml. Coca-Cola contains 10.6g of sugar per 100ml – that’s 35g in a 330ml can (equivalent of 7 teaspoons).

It is not yet known what the Irish equivalent will be worked out as.

There has been strong opposition to the tax from the food and drinks industry, which says a tax will not be effective as a public health policy to tackle obesity.

Recently, TheJournal.ie‘s Factcheck found that:

  • There is some evidence that the tax precedes a moderate decrease in consumption, but also that this effect tends to fade quite quickly
  • There is no significant evidence that sugar taxes cut body mass index (BMI), or rates of obesity, diabetes or heart disease, but there is evidence that they have not achieved such desired and promised public health gains
  • However, most sugary drinks taxes were implemented quite recently, and subsequent research may yield different results as the effects of the taxes develop.

Opinion: As someone who was 27 stone at the age of 21, we need more than a sugar tax to fix obesity

More: How the sugar-trafficking food industry paid scientists to tell us fat, not sugar, was the real problem

FactCheck: Do taxes on sugary drinks actually work?

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