A group of New Zealand scientists is gearing up to emulate
the success of anti-tobacco campaigners by getting rid of
sugar-flavoured soft drinks by 2025.
The move comes as scientists in Europe and the United States
this week attacked sugar in fizzy drinks and goods in an
escalating health debate about sugar's role in global health
Modelled on the success of the tobacco-control campaign, the
group of public health specialists and scientists want to
ride the wave of support for "New Zealand Smokefree 2025" and
the "end game for tobacco".
They are pushing for hefty, tobacco-style taxes on
added-sugar milks, juices, soft drinks and energy/sports
drinks because of the links between weight gain and intake of
The group have adopted a name, Fizz, or Fighting Sugar in
Soft Drinks, with echoes of a leading tobacco-control lobby
group, Ash (Action on Smoking and Health).
"I don't think the message and the vision is that far-fetched
at all," said Fizz spokesman Dr Gerhard Sundborn, of Auckland
He is organising a symposium on sugary drinks which has
attracted international speakers, including the Californian
children's doctor Professor Robert Lustig, who famously
refers to sugar as a toxin.
This week the Financial Times in the United Kingdom reported
growing concerns from scientists and public health
authorities in Britain and US about the link between added
sugar and increasing global health problems. British and
American critics say food and beverage companies have boosted
sales by using more added sugar, which contributes to a
number of health problems including diabetes, obesity and
Dr Sundborn predicted the New Zealand public would "jump on
board" the Fizz campaign once people learned how much sugar
was in soft drinks and the harms of excess sugar consumption,
such as unhealthy weight gain, tooth decay, and increased
risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and gout.
A 355ml can of sugar fizzy drink contains 10 teaspoons of
sugar or around 40g.
The World Health Organisation recommends a maximum of 10 per
cent of our energy intake comes from added sugar. In New
Zealand, this equates to 69g for an average man, 46g for an
average woman, and 78g for a young man. It is widely
understood that a WHO experts group is considering halving
New Zealand children get about a quarter of their "total
sugars" from drinks, their main source, followed by fruit on
15 to 18 per cent.
We have one of the highest rates of obesity in the developed
world - 28 per cent of adults and 10 per cent of children -
although Pacific island nations' rates are generally much
Fizz wants a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks and regulations
to restrict their availability at schools, public hospitals
and other government agencies.
Major school tuck-shop contractors report sugary soft drinks
have largely gone from schools since Frucor Beverages and
Coca Cola agreed with the Government in 2006 to withdraw them
voluntarily, although Coke noted this deal does not cover
third-party wholesalers which are independent.
In Britain, researchers who calculated a 20 per cent tax
would reduce obesity by 1.3 per cent also reported that soft
drink taxes in France and Ireland had led to reduced
NZ Health Minister Tony Ryall said his Government did not
support a sugar tax. The Green Party said it favoured a sugar
drink levy and Labour said it would look at a "range of
measures to reduce obesity".
Frucor said sugar drink taxes had not been shown to achieve
public health objectives and they would increase costs for
Coca Cola said a tax would be unfair and the best way to
reduce obesity was a combination of balanced diet and regular
- By Martin Johnston of the New Zealand Herald