The Health Minister should follow the bold move of the UK chancellor who overnight announced he’d introduce a sugar levy on soft drinks, a move that is being tipped to “take over the world”, the Green Party says.
UK Chancellor George Osborne is being hailed as a hero for children after overnight introducing a sugar levy on soft drinks from 2018. New Zealand Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has repeatedly refused to introduce a similar levy here, despite advice to do so by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science advisor and other experts.
“It’s time for the Health Minster to follow the UK’s lead and put the health and wellbeing of children ahead of the interests of the junk food industry,” Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague said.
“All the evidence shows that sugar is damaging the health of New Zealand children and is driving our obesity epidemic. It’s time for the Minister of Health to put children first and take this simple step to protect them.
“George Osborne’s actions highlight how dangerous it is for those with the power to act on the obesity epidemic, to instead sit on the side-lines and watch while a generation of children’s health is damaged.
The UK Chancellor has reportedly said: “I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children's generation... I'm sorry. We knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing.”
“The New Zealand Government’s inaction on obesity stands in stark contrast to the brave action of its conservative counterpart in the UK,” Mr Hague said.
“My challenge to the New Zealand Health Minister is to be similarly brave, face up to the junk food industry and admit that sugar is robbing our children of their health and knocking years off their life expectancy.
“The Minister’s claims that there is not enough evidence to justify a levy, but experts are clear that it works, and we should be doing it here.
“The Green Party has a comprehensive plan to combat obesity and diabetes in New Zealand, and we’re keen to work with the Government to make it happen
“Our plan would set a levy on sugary soft drinks, and plough the revenue back into obesity and other health programmes.
“Till the Government stops protecting the junk food industry at the expense of New Zealanders, the obesity crisis will keep getting worse,” Mr Hague said.