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Sugar  |  Sugar

Last updated: 27 November 2016

FAWU Protest Actions Against Sugar Tax

The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU); having noted the pending introduction of the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSB), now referred to as Sugar Tax by Government as a health policy step; has staged a protest march to the Head Office of the Treasury Department in Pretoria in November 2016.

The determination to mount this march was informed by admission from the Treasury and their Researchers that there will be job losses emanating from this Sugar Tax and the silly claims that those lost jobs will be will be fictitiously created elsewhere, say in bottled water or 100% juices factories, yet there is no scientific study to prove this.

We support a quest for a healthy nation and want an obesity-free population if that means a citizenry not prone to heart problems, strokes and hypertensions, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). However, we do not believe that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverage products will be a mechanism to achieve the intended health objectives.

We think this will simply become another "sin tax" like those taxes on alcohol and tobacco products. If this tax is introduced as a revenue-raising exercise for the Government Fiscus, we may agree but, if it is introduced as a health policy intervention, we beg to differ. We can argue with alcohol and tobacco that those taxes may not have worked as claimed as policy steps for all sorts of realities.

If anything, it may well be that the issue of obesity is beyond the sugary beverages into other sugar contained products as well as other fat-intensive products. The question is will those products be taxed as well? It is precisely for these reasons that we are marching to the Treasury in order to call for a summit in getting a comprehensive discussion on obesity and the needed interventions to deal with NCDs.

In any case, we do not think that some of the arguments, such as that obesity and consequential diseases are of lifestyle such as narrow consumption of sugary drinks because there may be multiple factors revolving on dire socio-economic conditions; caused by treble crises of unemployment, poverty and inequality; in consuming an "affordable" sugary Coke drinks or diluting an Oros concentrate into litters of drinks than a lifestyle choice of consuming a relatively "unaffordable" 100% juice.

Anyway, one job loss is too many jobs to lose in the Republic of South Africa (RSA) given the highest rate of unemployment rate coupled with persisting poverty and the widest inequality on Earth while, equally, it is important to deal with needed positive health outcomes from preventive measures and treatment interventions, without the use of inappropriate or blatant instruments.

We hope that the Treasury and the entire Government would then realise the importance of convening a summit of the all relevant stakeholders and role players to deal with the overall issue of obesity and the causes of NCDs diseases to the nation.