South Africans take to the streets and demand sugary drinks tax

MEDIA RELEASE

Cape Town, 31 May 2017 – The Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) led activists and members of the public in a demonstration outside Parliament to advocate for the introduction of a strong sugary drinks tax. This took place as critical public hearings on the Rates and Monetary Amounts and Revenue Laws Bill were underway.

HEALA is campaigning for a 20 percent tax which is projected to prevent obesity among 220 000 people in a country with highest obesity rates in sub-Saharan Africa. While there are several reasons for the dangerously high obesity prevalence in the country, increasing consumption of harmful sugary drinks is a significant contributor.

“The people who took part in today’s demonstration represent millions of South Africans who deserve to have their health prioritised over the accumulation of profits in the beverage industry. We are encouraged by the growing support for a sugary drinks tax. People recognise the health crisis we are facing and the beverage industry’s baseless tactics,” said HEALA coordinator, Tracey Malawana.

A sugary drinks tax of 11 percent was proposed in the budget speech in February this year. Since then it has appeared on the agenda at previous committee sessions where MPs and officials from the Department of Health and National Treasury presented various views on its health benefits and economic implications. We believe many of them have supported the tax as an important piece of the arsenal to fight obesity and lower the prevalence of life-threatening non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Economic modelling indicates that a tax rate of 20 percent is required to yield notable public health impact.

“The beverage industry has exaggerated the economic implications of a strong sugary drinks tax and but it is quite clear that the impact of lives lost as result of high sugar consumption will have far more devastating effects on the country’s economy compared the implementation of a tax,” added Ms Malawana.

South Africans are among the top 10 consumers of soft drinks in the world and the demand is increasing at an average rate of 3.6% per year. According to Euromonitor International, in 2014, carbonates accounted for over 3500 million litres – seven times the amount of juice consumption. Even less people choose bottled water, consuming about 400 million litres.

Although excessive sugar intake is not the only cause for diabetes and other life threatening diseases, addressing the high consumption of sugary drinks in South Africa is a key starting point to tackling obesity prevention.

“The fight for this tax has been long but worthwhile and we will continue to rally South Africans from all walks of life and encourage them to wield their influence and ensure that government and various role players make a decision that will keep people free of disease and save their lives,” concluded Ms Malawana.

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Healthy Living Alliance

Every South African has a right to access clean drinking water and healthy food. HEALA is an alliance of organisations with this mission in mind.

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