South Africa’s first health tax offers public a win-win option
The Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) welcomes the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks – called the Health Promotion Levy by government – as of 1 April 2018.
We congratulate Parliament, Treasury and the Department of Health for resisting enormous pressure from the beverage industry and introducing the country’s first health tax.
South Africa is the first country in Africa to tax sugary drinks and we hope the rest of the continent will follow suit, as the sugary beverage industry has identified Africa as a major new market. We join countries such as Mexico, France, the UK and United Arab Emirates as well as a growing number of US cities in taxing these drinks that have serious health consequences.
That morning fruit juice, lunch time iced tea and the glasses of cooldrink over dinner might seem harmless, but they all add to the dangerous amounts of sugar many of us consume daily and are fast becoming a serious health concern.
In South Africa, sugary drinks have become the drink of choice for millions of people. Yet the reality is that these drinks are far from healthy. Excessive sugar intake is a major contributor to obesity and related life-threatening diseases.
“South Africans continue to consume sugary drinks even though we know this can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay,” says HEALA’s newly appointed executive director, Sibongile Nkosi.
Taxing sugary beverages may be just the incentive South Africans need to cut down on purchasing these products. However, HEALA believes that a 20 percent tax rather than the current 11 percent would be more effective.
According to Treasury, the first 4g of sugar per 100ml will not be taxed as an incentive to get manufacturers to cut the sugar content of their drinks. Every gram of sugar over the first 4g will be taxed at 2,1cents. On a litre of sugary soda, the tax will be approximately R1.39. It is presumed that manufacturers will pass most or even all of this amount on to the consumer.
HEALA encourages members of the public to avoid paying the tax by choosing healthier, and cheaper, beverages such as water or plain milk.
“The tax on sugary drinks is one tax that no one has to pay. It’s a win-win if we refuse to pay the tax and consume water and milk instead. Our pockets and health both benefit,” says Malawana.
“We will be watching carefully to see how government allocates the proceeds of the tax, as it is supposed to go towards health promotion.”
In a country where diabetes has become the number one cause of death among South African women and the second most common cause of death in the total population, according to Stats SA, every available resource is necessary in order to combat the disease.
Global research suggests that the Health Promotion Levy will have a significant impact in reducing sugar consumption – and this is a valuable starting point in a national effort to curtail non-communicable diseases.
Distributed on behalf of Health-e by Meropa Communications, telephone 011 506 7300. For information or to schedule interviews, please contact:
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The Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) is an alliance of organisations and thousands of interested South Africans with this mission in mind. Its current member organisations are: Health-e News Services, Health Promotion and Development Foundation, Khulisa Social Solutions, Rural Health Advocacy Project, Section 27, South African Dental Association (SADA), South African Paediatric Association (SAPA), Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA), Amandla.mobi and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
For more information, please visit www.heala.org.