The Sugar Tax: improving people’s health?
On the 24th April 2018, the Sugar Tax was first introduced to Ireland. The Sugar Tax is a levy that “affects fizzy drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and flavoured waters.” The price of the tax varies depending on the amount of sugar per 100ml. This tax was implemented in the hopes of tackling “the obesity epidemic” currently gripping Ireland and affects the prices of Coca-Cola Classic, Pepsi, Club Orange, Red Bull and Monster. However, what this levy does not affect is the diet versions of these minerals.
Unfortunately, there are many people who choose the diet options over the classic options hoping they will be better for their health. After the introduction of the Sugar Tax, there are now even more people opting for Diet Coke over Classic Coke. However, what these people do not know is that they aren’t benefitting their health but rather the opposite – they’re damaging it. The Framingham Heart Study, “a long term observational study of people living in Framingham, Massachusetts,” discovered that “older adults who regularly drank artificially sweetened beverages… were about three times more likely to have a stroke or develop Alzheimer’s disease over ten years.”
Although there is a definite connection between these diseases and diet minerals, “association doesn’t equal causation, and while respected, observational studies cannot determine causation.” However, “observational studies have found that diet soda is associated with higher odds of developing both of these conditions [type two diabetes and mid-life obesity].” In fact, those who drink one diet mineral a day are “67% more likely to develop type two diabetes.” This is because, as scientists uncovered in 2014, “artificial sweeteners could change the ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut, leading to glucose intolerance, part of the chain in type two diabetes.” Therefore, while drinking these low-sugar alternatives may not directly cause Alzheimer’s or trigger a stroke, they are certainly associated with them.
This begs the question of why there is no extra tax on such drinks. Understandably, they may not have enough sugar content to justify their inclusion on the Sugar Tax as it currently exists. However, if the true aim of this levy is to improve people’s health, then these drinks should also be included in the Sugar Tax, or else it is simply steering people away from one evil and into the arms of another.
It is beyond reasonable doubt that the Sugar Tax will have immense benefits for the country. The “Irish medical expert Professor Donal O’Shea… estimated [that] it could reduce the number of obese Irish adults by 22,000 within three years.” This would be quite an improvement considering how “nearly a quarter” of Irish people today are obese, including almost a third of Irish children. Furthermore, it is estimated that the Sugar Tax will produce an additional forty million euros in its first year. While it is currently unknown what the government plan to do what this money, hopefully they will discover a way to channel this money back into improving health in Ireland.
Many medical professionals are hoping that the current sugar tax is only a stepping stone to a broader and more inclusive Sugar Tax, that would affect “other products, such as convenience foods, [that] should [already] be monitored,” based not only on their sugar content but also on their fat content. This improved Sugar Tax would include a levy on diet minerals, which often contain no calories. Those who oppose the Sugar Tax, even as it currently exists, would ask what there is left for them to drink, to which the answer is plenty. The health experts would recommend that people opt for “drinks that can benefit your brain health and reduce Alzheimer’s risk, such as coffee or green tea.”
Ultimately, the Sugar Tax marks a huge advancement in governmental attempts to decrease the number of people suffering from obesity. Hopefully, it is the first step towards a happier, healthier Ireland. There will always be those who declare a law too extreme, or not extreme enough, and while this particular one certainly has room to improve, it is the foundation for something even better, something that everyone should appreciate.
Nia is a student at Maynooth University where she is studying English, Spanish, history and classics for her Bachelor’s Degree. She has volunteered to help combat loneliness amongst the elderly, to raise money for various charitable causes as well as work to raise awareness for the Irish language.
Nia believes in performing one random act of kindness daily, such as giving a generous tip or complimenting a stranger. Her hobbies include going to the cinema, travelling, creating bad puns, bullet journals, and slowly making her way through her bucket list.