Poorer families will not be unfairly targeted by a sugar tax, the Ministry of Health said yesterday.
The consultation paper on the tax explained that the proposal is designed to help people be healthier and discourage importers from bringing in high-sugar products.
The document, released at the start of an eight-week public consultation period, said: “The sugar tax will be applied to items identified as non-nutritive, luxury items.
“The goal is not to impose a tax that unfairly targets low-income families, but will encourage better choices at the checkout counter and encourage healthier imports from the wholesalers.”
The document added that evidence from other countries showed that an increased price led to a drop in consumption, which resulted in “an increase in health benefits”.
And it said: “Persons with a low income also feel unfairly the effects of bad health, which can lead to an excess in spending on healthcare.”
The document was published as the ministry launched its public consultation to “seek views on the detailed policy design rather than to seek views on alternative proposals”.
A spokeswoman said: “The prevalence of obesity and diabetes is one of the highest among the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development countries.
“The Government began the consultative process by setting out specific objectives and identifying options.
“The current stage is determining the best option and developing a framework for implementation including detailed policy design.”
The proposal looks at a list of items for “added levies at the point of their importation into Bermuda”.
While other jurisdictions have focused on sugary drinks, the proposal for Bermuda includes food items such as candies and plain sugar. The document added that the goal of the sugar tax “is to curb unwanted consumption of these foods which contribute no nutritional value to our daily diets”.
But the Government plans will not include milk-based drinks or alcoholic drinks in the tax.
The document also said that the Government wanted to reduce the duty on imported water from 35 per cent to 0 per cent to encourage consumers to drink that rather than sugary drinks.
The 20-page consultation document listed a series of questions the ministry wants public views on, including whether the duty rate should be set at 75 per cent or 150 per cent.
The consultation period will run until March 1 and the tax is expected to become law later this year.
Michelle Jackson, executive vice-president of group insurance at The Argus Group, said: “We welcome the Government’s public consultation on the proposed sugar tax and actively support the Ministry of Health’s efforts to promote healthy lifestyles.”
Print copies of the consultation document are available from the health ministry’s offices in the Continental Building on Hamilton’s Church Street and at gov.bm/health-public-consultations.
The questionnaire can also be found on the government website, as well as https://goo.gl/forms/86QbP1rWx91Y3hO32.
For more information, call 278-4900 or email health firstname.lastname@example.org
Items to be included in the sugar tax listed in the consultation document:
1. Sugar in solid forms, not syrups or other liquids. Includes brown sugar, white sugar, powdered sugar and icing sugar.
2. Marshmallows, yoghurt covered raisins, caramel candy, fondant, nougat, white chocolate. Other chocolate at present not being considered.
3. Dilutables, crystals/powders and flavoured sugar syrups. For example, brands like KoolAid, Ribena and Coffeemate.
4. Sodas, energy drinks, fruit juices with added sugar and sweetened teas.