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Poll shows most New Zealanders support a sugary drinks levy

The latest UMR Research Poll shows that support for a sugary drinks levy in New Zealand is at an all-time high, particularly where supporting revenue can be tagged to child obesity prevention and dental programmes.

The Cancer Society, Diabetes Foundation Aotearoa and University of Auckland are calling for a sugary drinks levy to be introduced.

The report, released by the University of Auckland, shows that support for a sugary drinks levy rose to 67%, compared to 65% in 2018.

“This support for a levy is significant as we’ve had few health messages lately that are related to obesity while we’ve all been talking about COVID-19,” says Dr Gerhard Sundborn, chair of FIZZ New Zealand and senior lecturer in population health at the University of Auckland.

Most telling was the drop in the number of people opposed to a sugary drinks levy. Opposition fell from 27% in 2018 to 20%. The poll was conducted from the 28th of July to the 3rd of August 2020 with a nationally representative sample of 1187 New Zealanders.

The poll shows that the majority (80%) of New Zealanders now either support a sugary drinks levy or are not opposed to one. Increased support for the sugary drinks levy was seen if money was put towards dental and other prevention programmes.

The Cancer Society, Diabetes New Zealand and University of Auckland academics are calling on politicians to take notice of these results pre-election and follow the lead of international examples of a sugary drinks levy.

“Diabetes Foundation Aotearoa supports a levy on sugars found in excessive quantities in beverages due to the unhealthy consequences for health,” says Dr John Baker, Chair of Diabetes Foundation Aotearoa.  “This is particularly relevant for young people given the appeal, relative cheapness and easy availability of sweetened drinks.”

“Unhealthy diet and excess body weight are among the leading causes of preventable cancer deaths in New Zealand. They are linked to at least 12 cancers. A health levy on sugary drinks would decrease their affordability and support the uptake of healthier drink options like water,” says Lucy Elwood, Cancer Society of New Zealand CE.

“The results of this representative survey give politicians further mandate to implement what many public health practitioners and researchers view as a “no brainer”- the introduction of a levy on sugary drinks,” Dr Sundborn says.