A strong sugary drinks tax in SA
We just got the following letter from HEALA and had to share it with you – Sweet Life has submitted comment, feel free to do the same!
ACT NOW TO TELL THE NATIONAL TREASURY AND PARLIAMENT TO PASS A STRONG SUGARY DRINKS TAX
BACKGROUND: WHY THIS MATTERS
In recognition of the negative health effects of sugary drinks, Minister of Finance Gordhan’s 2017 budget speech included a plan to tax sugary drinks—such as fizzy drinks and energy drinks—to help South Africans live longer and healthier lives. Tackling obesity-related diseases needs to be a national priority, and the proposed tax on sugary drinks is a first step in addressing this national epidemic. It’s important to raise as many voices as possible to strengthen and pass the tax.
Treasury and Parliament are acting NOW to further consider the proposed tax. The South African government has been under immense pressure from beverage companies and retail groups to weaken this important policy with exemptions, loopholes, and watered-down regulations—and they are having an impact! Even though there’s a proposed tax in the legislation, it’s critical to raise voices to encourage our leaders to strengthen and pass this life-saving measure!
That’s why Parliament and Treasury MUST hear from YOUR ORGANIZATION to make sure the final policy is strong and effective in reducing consumption of harmful sugary drinks among South Africans. They will accept comments on the proposal through 31 March.
Your organization has a unique voice and story to tell about why this policy is important to you. While it is critical to be active and engaged in speaking out on the necessity of a strong sugary drink tax, submitting public comments to Parliament and Treasury on the tax policy is especially impactful. Below are some key messages you can customize when submitting your comments, which are being accepted until Friday, 31 March 2017.
KEY MESSAGES: WHY WE NEED THE TAX
We support the National Treasury’s sugar drink tax and applaud them for their efforts to improve South Africans’ health; however, the tax can be strengthened to make it even more effective.
Sugary drinks are one of the most significant contributors to health problems such as diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, certain cancers, and dental caries in South Africa and globally. South Africans are among the top ten consumers of soft drinks in the world. In addition, South Africa is already ranked the most obese country in sub-Saharan Africa, and a recent study found that diabetes was the second leading cause of death among South Africans in 2015.
Sugary drink taxes work to reduce consumption, improve health, and save healthcare rands. Global experts—including the World Health Organization (WHO), World Cancer Research Fund, World Heart Federation, and International Diabetes Federation—recommend sugary drink taxes as a way to reduce sugar consumption. Evidence from Mexico and other jurisdictions that have passed taxes show declines in consumption that will work to decrease diabetes and other diseases without costing jobs.
The sugary beverage companies know that the tax will work to reduce consumption and make South Africans healthier. That is why they oppose it so vehemently. By passing a strong sugary drink tax, Treasury and Parliament can protect South Africa’s health and children rather than the special interests who target their unhealthy products to our most vulnerable consumers.
FOUR WAYS TO STRENGTHEN THE TAX
Tax all the sugar in all sugary drinks
The proposed tax design exempts a large portion of the sugar in sugary drinks—giving a “discount” on the first 4g of sugar per 100mL, no matter how unhealthy a beverage is. The discount reduces the health impact of the tax and is a giveaway to the beverage industry and manufacturers whose products have the highest and most harmful levels of sugars. There is no health justification for the exclusion, and no other country with a successful sugary drink tax has followed this structure. Treasury and Parliament need to remove the 4g discount and tax all the sugar in sugary drinks.
Increase the tax rate of concentrates
The current tax proposal includes a tax rate for concentrates (squashes or syrups) that is half the rate for ready-to-drink products. South Africans are drinking more and more concentrates than ever before; it is the fastest growing segment of the sugary drink market. Consumption in terms of kcal/capita increased from 16.5 percent in 2009 to 32.9 percent in 2016; by comparison, consumption of regular cola carbonates in 2016 was only 29.3 percent. To achieve its objective of improving health, the tax must encourage South Africans to consume beverages that are lower in sugar—instead of switching to cheap sugary concentrates. The tax rate for concentrates should be increased to align with the rate for ready-to-drink sugary beverages.
Tax all drinks with added sugar
The current proposal doesn’t include all sugary drinks. Fruit/vegetable juices and dairy-based drinks with added caloric sweeteners contain equal or higher levels of sugars, despite their illusion of health. Treasury needs to clarify their proposal so that all fruit and dairy-based drinks with added caloric sweeteners (whether using a fruit juice, concentrate-based sweetener, or any other caloric sweetener) are taxed.
Some revenue from the sugary drink tax should be used to promote health
While the sugary drink tax itself will be effective in improving health, it will be even more effective if some of the revenue is used to fund programs to promote healthy eating and improve health. It’s critical that the intent expressed in the budget speech to do this is carried out in practice. South Africans need to know that revenues will be used to benefit the health of the country. Revenue should be directed towards health promotion measures, such as increasing the number of community healthcare workers, funding nurses in schools, developing and implementing effective health and nutrition education campaigns, or improving water and sanitation infrastructure.
3 SIMPLE STEPS FOR SUBMITTING COMMENTS
- Introduce your comment by discussing why this is important to your organization; this is your chance to personalize your comments with your own experience
- Draft your comments on why the tax needs to be passed and strengthened, using some or all of the key messages in this document
- Email your comments by Friday, 31 March 2017 to: Ms Mmule Majola email@example.com and Ms Adele Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org
The South African government MUST put the health of South Africans before special interests who target vulnerable populations with their unhealthy products. Please make your voice heard today!
Healthy Living AlliancePosted on: March 29, 2017Editor