A local health charity has welcomed the confirmation that the ‘sugar tax’ will go ahead and has called on local politicians to ring-fence the money to tackle childhood obesity. Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke carried out an opinion poll in May 2016 which showed that 82% of the public agreed that the NI Executive should ring-fence this money to tackle a problem which already affects a quarter of Northern Ireland’s children.
Neil Johnston, NICHS’s Public Affairs Adviser explained, “The levy on sugary drinks will come into force in 2018. It is estimated that when the ‘Sugar Tax’ of 8p per can (or 25p per litre) is introduced in 2018 it could raise £18m for Northern Ireland. We are delighted that the Northern Ireland public agree with us that this money should be used to improve the health of our children.
“We asked the public the following question – ‘Given that 25% of children in Northern Ireland are obese or overweight, to what extent do you agree or disagree that this money should be ‘ring-fenced’ specifically to improve physical activity opportunities in primary schools?’ 45% strongly agreed with the idea and 37% agreed.”
Mr Johnston continued, “We believe the introduction of the ‘sugar tax’ gives the Executive a distinct pot of money to use to tackle childhood obesity and enough time to put proper plans in place by 2018. We are calling on them to increase opportunities for more physical activity for all our primary school children. We have an opportunity to do the right thing and take action to give our children’s health a real boost – for example by ensuring all primary schools make sure they give their pupils 2 hours of quality PE every week. We are calling on the new Executive and in particular the new Health Minister to listen to the public and take action.”
Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke will be seeking cross party support for its campaign.