Spotlight on sugary drinks

25 March 2016
Infographic: how much sugar do you drink from the Health Promotion Agency
Health Promotion Agency infographic on the amount of sugar in drinks

New Zealand schools are being urged to swap fizzy drinks for water in the wake of moves in the UK to introduce a tax on sugary drinks.

The UK “sugar” tax has been welcomed by many experts in New Zealand, including the New Zealand Medical Association. 

Its chair Dr Stephen Child says, “This is an important step in protecting the health of children.  We reiterate our call for the New Zealand government to consider a similar step.”

His calls were supported by Dr Simon Thornley, an epidemiologist at the Auckland Regional Public Health Service.

“The situation in New Zealand is very similar to the UK with high levels of childhood and adult obesity.  As well as limiting weight gain, this tax is likely to lead to major savings on children’s dental health.  New Zealand should definitely follow suit!”

The New Zealand government has said it will not introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, but the Ministries of Education and Health have directed the country’s 2,500 schools to adopt water-only policies.

The Ministry of Education sent a directive to all schools asking them to move away from sugary drinks and to offer only water or plain low-fat milk.

The Ministry of Health’s chief advisor for child and youth health, Pat Tuohy, says this is a good first step.

“Sugary drinks can cause tooth decay and contribute to childhood obesity.  The World Health Organisation recommends schools create healthy food environments to introducing a water-only policy is a great first step for schools,” he says.

The move has also been praised by the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) which has lobbied for the removal of sugar-sweetened beverages from schools, hospitals and sports clubs.

Its president Mark Lane says, “The RACP strongly supports New Zealand schools removing drinks that are high in sugar because of their impact on child health. Obesity and poor oral health are linked the consumption of food and drinks that have high refined sugar content.”