Saturday 22 October 2016

Sugar tax is better than the cost of obesity to the taxpayer

Published 13/09/2016 | 02:30

A child sits on the gym floor during a program for overweight children. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
A child sits on the gym floor during a program for overweight children. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The arguments against the introduction of a sugar tax promulgated by the sugar industry are boringly predictable. As with their cousins in the tobacco and alcohol industries, they claim State intervention will threaten jobs and won't work. While we should be open to evidence when it comes to the efficacy of a sugar tax in combating obesity, vested interests who put forward the "jobs" argument in the face of a major public health issue tend to make me suspicious.

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The proposed tax has been criticised as regressive - a major review of the impact of sugar taxation found it to be only mildly regressive. The State could subsidise healthier foods to make things a little easier for poorer families. Also, the cost of obesity to taxpayers, which could be described as a deferred tax - a UOC (Universal Obesity Charge) - is conveniently ignored.

The 'Nanny State' argument is another put forward by opponents, but the sugar industry's 'Sugar Daddy' (ie, the State) will foot the health service bill for the predicted national obesity epidemic. One in four children in Ireland is obese. According to a recent study published 'The Lancet', along with our neighbours, Ireland is set to become the most obese country in Europe within a decade.

The study predicted that by 2025, 38pc or Irish men and 37pc of Irish women will be obese. The World Health Organisation has suggested that Ireland is on course to become the most obese nation in Europe by 2030.

Sugary drinks increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and gout. Of course, a sugar tax is not a panacea, but there is evidence it will help.

Research published in the 'British Medical Journal' reported a reduction in sales of sugary drinks after the introduction of a sugar tax in Mexico. The biggest reduction occurred in the poorest households, where monthly purchases of sugary drinks fell by an average of 9pc over the year, and by 17pc in later months. But, as Upton Sinclair said: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

Rob Sadlier

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Artane Band 'a symbol of hope'

Councillor Mannix Flynn is putting forward a motion to Dublin City Council requesting that the Artane Band overhaul their image, including changing their name.

Cllr Flynn's reasoning for tabling the motion is that he feels the band is a symbol of the abuses that were committed against vulnerable children in the St Joseph's Industrial School and all other industrial schools around the country.

The band has gone through many changes since the time of the Industrial School and has been a source of great pride for the community of Artane.

Nobody is denying that the abuses carried out against the children in the industrial schools were unforgivable crimes.

However, changing the name and image of the Artane Band would take away the positive symbol of hope, culture and community that the Artane Band, and the Artane School of Music, has become.

Gavin Brennan

Clontarf, Dublin

Hickey's health excuse

Without being unsympathetic, I've become irritated with the continued references to (a) the condition of Pat Hickey's health, and (b) his "advanced years". Healthwise, why then was he occupying such a high-powered, high-flying (literally) position? Apropos of age, Mr Hickey is 71 in a world when 80 or more is the new 70.

Being myself a forward-looking 74 years of age, I am tired of the excuse afforded to this youngster!

Oliver McGrane

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Papering over the cracks

The reasons why our wonderful country is going down the drain are becoming clearer and clearer as our various governments blunder on.

Looking only at the banking crisis, hospital crisis, environmental crisis (dumping et al), toxic water crisis, mental health crisis and even the refugee crisis, it is clear that not one hugely overpaid TD is interested in trying to tackle the problems efficiently at root.

Extorting more and more money from us to buy expensive paper to put over all the cracks and push through their PR machine is clearly indicative of the Alice-in-Wonderland world that they all inhabit.

It's almost as though they expect us to regard their incompetence as a sign of their sincerity.

Richard Barton

Tinahely, Co Wicklow

Leave it to the women

If the men are not up to the task, leave it to the women. The Cats, and no doubt the kittens as well, in Croke Park this afternoon were certainly hungry.

Next Sunday we shall find out how hungry the Mayo men are.

Gerald Morgan

Chaucer Hub, Trinity College Dublin

Halligan 'bringing parity'

As a Waterford person who lives, works and pays the same rate of tax and PPS etc, as Ronan Quinlan (Letters September 10), I find it galling that someone who lives in a city that has everything that the rest of us covet will criticise an elected person for attempting to bring a level of parity to our area.

I hope he never has to worry about travelling 120 or 160km if he has a heart attack and it's after 5pm on a weekday or all day Saturday and Sunday. The problem with Mr Quinlan is that he is spoiled - he has everything he wants on his doorstep and he'll be damned if it costs him more for others to have the same.

John Halligan is admired and respected for what he is attempting to do for the people who elected him. Good luck to you, John.

Sean Healy


Fair distribution of wealth

The job of a parliamentary democracy is to tax and redistribute its wealth in order to pay for public services and infrastructure. Wealth definition: "A measure of the value of all of the assets of worth owned by a person, community, company or country." Do the "math".

Alison Hackett

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin

Apple tax could help the poor

It is unfair that the State pension for the elderly is a mere €225 per week. They are existing on the edge and cannot afford to pay the property tax, water tax and the 'tax on sick' (Irish Independent, September 9, 2016). People on low income should be exempt from those three odious taxes. A pensioner needs at least €250 per week to survive.

Hence, I say to the fat cats in Leinster House, take the €13bn bounty from heaven, and spend it on the poor, the homeless, and our cash-starved health service.

Assuming that Apple loses its appeal, which seems almost certain, our Government should spend the cash right away on the eradication of poverty. The TDs who voted to refuse the money will never be forgiven.

James Bourke

Terenure, Dublin 6

Irish Independent

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