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Over a third of young people drink sugary drinks most days of the week

Revenue Commissioners estimate that 411.3 million litres of SSDs were sold in Ireland in 2014.

Sugar tax Source: PA WIRE

OVER A THIRD of 15-24 year olds drink sugar sweetened drinks most days of the week or daily, according to new data from the Institute of Public Health in Ireland

Young people, boys and men and those from lower socio-economic groups are most frequent consumers of sugar-sweetened drinks (SSDs) across the island of Ireland, the figures show.

The IPH research said that:

  • Almost half (47%) of 13 year olds have consumed sugar-sweetened drinks in the previous 24 hours – 53% of boys and 42% of girls.
  • Almost a fifth (18%) consumed SSDs more than once during that period.
  • Over a third (36%) of 15-24 year olds in the Republic of Ireland are drinking sugar sweetened drinks (SSDs) most days of the week or daily.

Tomorrow, the IPH will host an all-island conference on World Obesity Day, in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter to be opened by Northern Ireland Minister for Health, Michelle O’Neill.

The Government has refused to introduce a sugar tax until at least 2018, in order to bring it onto the same timeline as a similar charge planned in the UK.

According to the latest Claire Byrne Live/Amárach poll for TheJournal.ie, 54% of people support a sugar tax.

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.

One in four children across the island of Ireland are overweight or obese, Dr Joanna Purdy and Noelle Cotter of the IPH said in a joint statement.

“World Health Organization guidelines state that free sugars should comprise less than 10% of our daily energy intake with reductions below 5% (approximately 6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits,” they added.

Budget 2016 A can of Coca Cola - note percentage of fat compared to sugar. Source: Nick Ansell/PA

Expose

“Consuming one 330 millilitre can of SSD could take a child over their recommended daily sugar intake.”

The Institute of Public Health in Ireland is an all-island body which supports co-operation on public health North and South to promote collective action for sustained improvements in health with a particular focus on addressing health inequalities.

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.

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.

Read: Majority of people believe Ireland should bring in a sugar tax

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

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