Jamaica public wants tax on sugary drinks – survey

Dr Christopher Tufton

(Jamaica Gleaner) There is strong public support for the Government to move beyond education campaigns to taking action on obesity, including, support for a sugary drinks tax.

Dr Christopher Tufton, health minister, in reporting on findings from Heart Foundation of Jamaica’s Obesity Prevention Public Opinion Survey, indicated that 64 per cent of respondents supported a tax on sugary drinks.

The study further stated that nine in 10 Jamaicans agreed that it was important that the Government be involved in helping to solve the problem of obesity, while 72 per cent would support Government taking action to pass and enforce policies that discouraged consumption of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods.

Tufton said the public’s voices can no longer be ignored. “In other words, the Jamaican people agree that we are drinking ourselves sick and they are saying that we should do something about it. For me, there is no clearer indication of action to be taken and for us to lead that charge,” he told the gathering at the launch of the

survey findings, which was held at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston.

“As a policymaker and politician, we cannot ignore what the people are saying. The survey has moved from drilling down the general public’s perceptions to the specifics of actions that need to be taken. That is significant.”

While he did not give any specific details as to when a tax would be imposed, he said that a myriad changes would be coming and would include a nutrition policy in schools.

“We don’t impose things on people unless they understand why it is in their best interest to create restrictions or to put in some kind of regulation.

“I cannot impose a tax alone as I am a part of a Cabinet and Government, which ultimately has to take decisions. But what I am prepared to say is that as Government, we are very concerned based on the science, which demonstrates obesity is on the rise. We are very happy to hear the public’s perception, and we are now articulating the need for restrictions,” the health minister declared.

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