Parliamentary hearings on the proposed sugar tax began on Tuesday, the first of what could be many more.
Government officials seek to engage in robust discussion with the public and consider all views and data presented to ensure that their decision will be in the best interest of the public.
Health professionals were out in force, showing their support for the proposed tax on fizzy drinks.
Experts from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) School of Public Health, University of Cape Town (UCT) Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) Healthy Living Alliance as well as the University of Illinois – Global Health Advocacy Incubator, all provided extensive data from various studies that showed why the move to implement a sugar tax on sweetened beverages in South Africa would benefit the health of low income communities in the long run.
A recent study from Wits University again put the spotlight on the proposed tax, finding that at least a third of the average South African's daily sugar intake is derived from sugar-sweetened beverages.
These statistics are indicators of the impact sugary beverages have on the daily lives of individuals in this country.
The average amount of sugar in a single 330ml carbonated beverage is eight teaspoons of sugar. A single 330ml fruit juice contains nine teaspoons of sugar. The World Health Organisation, however, has guidelines recommending a limit of six teaspoons of sugar per day.
Liquid sugars more harmful
There are many reasons why liquid sugars are more harmful:
- Liquid sugar is absorbed in 30 minutes, causing a spike in blood sugar
- These spikes lead to sugar changing into fat in the liver, contributing to the development of diabetes and heart disease
- Calories from sugar-sweetened beverages do not leave one feeling full, unlike calories from food or milk
- Sugar-sweetened beverages add to calories consumed
- Sugar-sweetened beverages have no nutritional value
Many people believe that in realty a sugar tax will not stop consumers from buying sugar-sweetened beverages. It might reduce the consumption of these beverages, however, which is a step in the right direction. The proposed sugar tax hopes to see members of low-income communities – those who are most at risk and most likely to use public health facilities – choose water rather than sugar-sweetened beverages.