The government should place a tax of 20pc on sugary drinks in a bid to fight obesity, doctors have advised.
In a statement issued earlier today, the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland’s (RCPI) Policy Group on Obesity has called on the government to introduce the tax in next week’s budget.
They also called on the government to conduct a review on how such drinks are promoted, and the effects such promotions has on consumption, particularly by children.
Sugary drinks provide no nutritional benefits and are strongly associated with weight gain, the policy group say.
Prof Donal O’Shea, Consultant Endocrinologist and Physician at St Vincent’s University Hospital and St Columcille’s Hospital and Joint Chair of the RCPI Policy Group on Obesity said, “With one in four Irish schoolchildren classified as overweight or obese, we have an epidemic and the Government must take action.
"The World Health Organisation and the EU have highlighted childhood obesity as most important public health problem in the developed world.
“There is widespread agreement among health professionals, now backed by a convincing body of evidence, that sugar sweetened drinks, including sports drinks, and their pattern of consumption are significant factors in weight gain and obesity, especially among children.
"Despite this, sugar sweetened drinks remain popular in Ireland, and are heavily promoted. Sports personalities and organisations are often used by industry to market their sports drinks. This is certainly something that I believe should be discouraged in the future.”
Dr Catherine Hayes, Associate Professor in Public Health Medicine, Trinity College Centre for Health Sciences and Joint Chair of the RCPI Policy Group on Obesity, said, “There is now a consensus across a broad spectrum of health professionals that a tax on sugar sweetened drinks is needed as an important step in addressing the challenge of obesity in Ireland.
"The Irish Heart Foundation, which is represented on the RCPI Policy Group, has highlighted in its pre-budget submission that the introduction of a tax on these drinks would encourage a switch in consumption to healthier alternatives such as water or low fat milk. A switch to water, which is available at little or no cost, would benefit those on low incomes by lowering expenditure while improving health.
"A Health Impact Assessment commissioned by the Department of Health in 2012 estimated that a 10pc tax on sugar sweetened drinks would reduce the number of obese adults in Ireland by 10,000.
“The introduction of the tax would go some way towards reducing direct and indirect costs of obesity, and would generate additional much-needed revenue for prevention. For these reasons, we support the call of The Irish Heart Foundation, which calls for a 20pc tax on sugar sweetened drinks in the 2014 Budget.”
The RCPI claim the cost of obesity to the state in 2009 was estimated at €1.13bn
The RCPI are hosting a public meeting on Tuesday, October 15, entitled ‘Look at Choices and Health’. The meeting will take place at the RCPI on Kildare Street, Dublin 2, at 6.20pm.