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Chocolate bars to be hit with 75% sugar tax

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All chocolate bars that contain sugar will be hit with a 75 per cent sugar tax from the start of next month, the House of Assembly heard last night.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, told MPs chocolate and cocoa products with sugar were to be added in the list of food and drinks covered by the sugar tax.

Ms Wilson said 10 per cent — $77 million — of the $770 million spent on health every year was used to treat people with diabetes.

She added about $27 million a year was spent on dialysis treatment. Ms Wilson said the sugar tax was not designed to raise revenue, but to reduce the consumption of sugar.

She added: “We cannot continue to see the skyrocketing health costs that we continue to see, largely due to diabetes and other non-communicable disease.”

However, she said she would move an amendment to remove breakfast cereals “that would have been subject to the sugar tax in the Bill as tabled”.

Wayne Furbert, the Government junior finance minister, said the sugar tax was designed to improve health.

He added that the sugar tax implemented last October had raised an extra $460,000.

Mr Furbert said that, although duty rates on sugar had increased, rates for vegetables, fruit and eggs had been reduced.

He added the reductions had lead to a $200,000 decrease in revenue.

Mr Furbert said that although the duty on the healthier items was reduced, some businesses had still hiked prices and he had noticed that with eggs.

Mr Furbert said: “We dropped the duty and the price went up.”

He added stickers were being added to goods that will be affected by the sugar tax, but that he had not seen any on fruit and vegetables to indicate that the tax had been cut.

Mr Furbert asked the public to tell the Government if they see prices on affected items go up before April 1.

Mr Furbert said some water products, which had a 35 per cent duty in the past, had been reduced to 15 per cent since last October.

Craig Cannonier, the Opposition leader, said the Government wanted to send a health message, but that had not required an increase in taxes.

He added that the Government should use the same determination it had to increase taxations to spread the health message.

Mr Cannonier said: “Making things more expensive so people won’t buy is not the way to go.”

He added that better education of the public would lead to healthier people.

Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, said Bermuda had one of the highest amputation rates in the world as a result of diabetes and that the sugar tax was needed.

Mr DeSilva said: “This tax is going to help us to press the health message.”

He added: “If asked to make a choice between upping the tax on sugar or amputations, I would choose upping the tax.”