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Parliament finally passes sugary drinks tax

| Legislation

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has passed the tax on sugary drinks, which is part of the Rates and Monetary Amounts and Revenue Law Amendment Bill.

This marks the end of 18 months of negotiations on the tax that included four public hearings and a negotiation process in Nedlac. 

The tax, due to be implemented on 1 April 2018, will see the price of a can of Coca Cola increase by around 11 percent.

“We applaud Members of Parliament for putting the health of millions of South Africans before the narrow interests of the beverage and sugar industries,” said Tracey Malawana, co-ordinator of the Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA).

 “Thanks to Treasury and MPs, South Africa is on the right path to reverse the alarming numbers of diabetes cases and other NCDs associated with obesity. We now look to the president to sign this important law without delay."

Initially, Treasury proposed a tax of around 20 percent on a can of Coca Cola. However, the current tax will impose 2,1 cents per gram of sugar on all sweetened drinks, with the first 4g of sugar per 100ml exempt as an incentive to encourage industry to reformulate its drinks to reduce their sugar content.

South Africans are among the top 10 consumers of sugary drinks in the world, and research has shown that drinking just one sugary fizzy drink a day increases the chance of being overweight by 27% for adults and 55% for children. 

Diabetes alone claimed more than 25 000 lives in 2015, and public health facilities reported seeing 10 000 new diabetes cases every month last year.

“While the tax is a victory for public health, it is around 11 percent on a can and we would like it to be strengthened to 20 percent to really deter people,” said Malawana. “We will also be monitoring how the proceeds of the tax are used to ensure that government uses the money for health promotion.”

Over 30 countries worldwide are taxing sugary drinks, and South Africa joins Portugal, India, Saudi Arabia and Thailand who have passed similar taxes this year. 

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