HEALA supports National Treasury’s attempts to protect sugary drinks tax
We support Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s announcement that he will adjust the health promotion levy (HPL) for inflation from 1 April 2019.
In his speech, Mboweni said the levy rate would increase to 2.21 cents to avoid an erosion in the value of the tax due to inflation. Currently, the levy is set at 2.1 cents for every gram of sugar beyond the first 4g of sugar per 100ml, which translates to an 11 percent tax on sugary drinks.
The inflation-adjustment of the HPL shows government’s commitment to protect this policy. But this not enough. We believe the rate – still around 11% on a can of Coca-Cola – is still too low. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a 20 percent tax in order to get people to reduce their consumption of sugary drinks enough to make an impact on obesity.
Excessive consumption of sugary drinks is a major cause of obesity. It also increases the risk of diabetes, liver and kidney damage, heart disease and some cancers. In 2017, there were around 180,000 new diabetes cases in South Africa’s public sector alone.
We will continue to advocate for protection of the this increase unabated until the health of South Africans is taken seriously by government and the beverage industry.
In recent days, Coca-Cola and others have attempted to undermine the levy, citing its impact on job losses. These are merely scare tactics and show the industry’s prioritisation of profits over health.
While Coca-Cola makes millions, the queues at our clinics grow longer. We all know that many of our schools and spaza shops are covered with Coca-Cola adverts, and for decades many of us didn’t know the truth about how much sugar there is in cold drinks.
Companies like Coca-Cola have been allowed to sell a product that drives life-threatening diseases and they have specifically targeted poor communities who have the least access to quality health services.