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Public want sugary drinks tax

Public want sugary drinks tax
Media Release - University of Auckland - 24 September 2015

Embargoed to 5am Friday 25 September

A significant shift in New Zealand public attitudes towards a tax on sugary soft drinks has been identified from recent poll results.

In a letter published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal, Dr Gerhard Sundborn from the University of Auckland’s School of Population Health says that findings from two large-scale, nationwide surveys indicate most New Zealanders now support a tax on ‘sugar-sweetened beverages’ (SSBs). The shift is about 25 percent.

His co-authors for the paper were Dr Simon Thornley, Dr Bodo Lang and Dr Rob Beaglehole and it was prepared on behalf of FIZZ (Fighting Sugar in Soft-drinks) New Zealand - a public health advocacy group established by researchers to reduce the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages in New Zealand to zero by 2025.

“A significant shift has occurred in New Zealanders’ appetite for a tax on SSBs, if the funds collected [from the tax] are to be used to prevent childhood obesity,” says Dr Sundborn.

In the first of two polls, 18 months apart, in February 2014, 44 percent of respondents supported a tax on sugary drinks. In the second poll, carried out in June 2015, support had increased to 52 percent - provided the funds from the tax were used to address childhood obesity.

“That’s an 18 percent relative rise in favour of a tax,” says Dr Sundborn. “Interestingly, there was an even stronger drop in people who opposed a tax on SSBs. Opposition to a SSB tax decreased relatively by 35 percent from 49 percent in February 2014 to 32 percent in June 2015.”

“This indicates a significant shift in public attitude towards the taxation of SSBs, because a quarter of respondents (25 per cent) moved to a more supportive, or less opposed, stance about the introduction of an SSB tax,” he says.

He says the speed at which public opinion has shifted (in favour of an SSB tax) indicates that
New Zealanders are increasingly aware of the harms SSBs pose to health, especially for children.

“Strong media attention around SSBs may have facilitated this change as over the last two years, the harm that SSB intake poses to health, and the notion of a tax on SSBs, has been profiled regularly in mainstream media,” he says.

A conference on ‘Sugary Drink Free Aotearoa by 2025’ will be held by FIZZ on Wednesday 7 October 2015 at MIT in Manukau with keynote speakers Professor Barry Popkin (via video) from the University of North Carolina, Dr Gerhard Sundborn (aka Dr FIZZ) and Che Fu.

The speaking programme includes panel discussions and speakers from around New Zealand. Full details available from


• The full paper will be available in the latest edition of the NZ Medical Journal, published on 25 September 2015.

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