Sugar Tax Up For Debate in Northern Ireland

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Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) are to discuss the introduction of a sugar tax in order to tackle rising rates of childhood obesity and associated health problems.

Health minister Simon Hamilton said it is time to start taking action, with children as young as two years old suffering from obesity. Childhood dental health is poor and most cases of preventable decay are linked to excessive sugar consumption. Mr Hamilton stated that discussions are taking place after it was revealed that more than a quarter of adults and children in Northern Ireland are obese. He has not spoken in favour of added tax on sugary foods or drinks, but a motion has been backed by Sinn Fein.

Countries including Mexico, Hungary and France have already introduced taxation measures and the Welsh Assembly is considering a similar approach. Jamie Oliver, who has campaigned passionately for healthy school meals, is a firm supporter of a sugar tax and the notion has also been supported by public health and dental organisations. NHS England recently confirmed it would be taxing sugary drinks on sale at hospital cafes by the year 2020.

Maeve McLaughlin, of Sinn Fein and chair of the health committee, said the figures show a “strong correlation” between obesity, dental problems and sugar consumption and any move that claims to reduce consumption should be considered. Taxation would not only raise revenue, it would also help to reduce spending on preventable illnesses.

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