Wholesalers: ‘Education Is Key, Not Sugar Tax’

February 15, 2018

[Written by Don Burgess]

Beverage and food wholesalers say education is the key to Bermuda’s obesity problem, and not a tax on sugary items.

The Ministry of Health announced on January 4 that it is consulting the public on the proposed implementation of a tax on to the importation of sugar, candies, sodas and other beverages with added sugar into Bermuda.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson said a “survey found that 75% of the island’s adult residents are overweight and more than a third of adults are obese. The prevalence of obesity and diabetes is one of the highest amongst the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development [OECD] countries.”

The Government is currently proposing to impose sugar tax by rationalising and increasing the duty rate on specified goods to a single higher rate of 75% but would consider a higher rate of 150% if the public were interested.

Bermuda Diabetes Association chairperson Debbie Jones said in a previous Bernews article, “A sugar tax will cause much dialogue and therefore apart from raising funds that can support educational activities will have the desired effect of raising awareness of why it is better to drink water than soda and sugary drinks that are full of empty calories.”

Jim Butterfield, chairman and CEO of Butterfield and Vallis, told Bernews, “This is an education matter. When you think of smoking, the price of cigarettes has escalated big time, but people still smoke. We were educated that smoking wasn’t good for us.

“That, plus diet and exercise are the answer. I don’t think a sugar tax is the answer. Bermudians will still pay for the Cokes and the chocolate bars. It is a shotgun approach to say ‘sugar tax’; it’s not going to change anything. We have to educate people about diet and exercise. It is a knee-jerk reaction.”

He added that it would affect some cereals, but not others; some cake mixes but not others; and part of the problem is the randomness of the application.

“If you read the back of any label, there is sugar in everything,” Mr Butterfield said. “It is an education issue to get all of us in Bermuda to eat right and exercise, but no, we don’t support it.”

Stephen Dunkley, the general manager of Dunkley’s, echoed Mr Butterfield’s sentiment that education is critical, but added that not only will the sugar tax have a minimal impact on consumer health but will also impact Bermudians in a multitude of ways.

He said, “While there have been several jurisdictions across the globe that have implemented some variation of a sugar tax, there has been little evidence from them that suggests the tax makes any impact on consumer health.”

He said several factors contribute to this.

“First, while it varies from place to place, most forms of the sugar tax that have been implemented have targeted sodas, given they typically have significant amounts of sugar and little to no nutritional value. However, soda consumption continues to decline in markets throughout the world, including Bermuda.”

Mr Dunkley added the tax adds a “significant risk of negatively impacting Bermudians by increasing the cost of groceries, hurting lower-income families, adversely impacting Bermudian owned businesses, creating job loss and having a negative impact on Bermuda’s hospitality industry. This is significant risk to bear in order to implement a tax that has proven to be ineffective in all the jurisdictions globally that have attempted it.”

Bruce Barritt, the general manager of John Barritt and Sons Limited, has been the charge against the proposed tax. He insists that education is the key to helping people fight obesity.

“Obesity is a complex issue,” Mr Barritt explained. “Taxing one select group of food items is unlikely to solve obesity. Continuous education is what the island needs. The public needs to be educated about eating properly and being active.”

He said proposed sugar tax fails to take to factor in that all calories count and weight gain comes from consuming too many calories and not exercising enough to burn off those calories.

Mr Barritt points out that the new tax will make an iced tea more expensive than a cold beer.

He encourages people to read the consultation document and make comments by the March 1 deadline.To participate in the Tax Consultation Feedback, click here

The Sugar Tax Consultation Document follows below [PDF here]

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Comments (38)

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  1. Triangle Drifter says:

    If the money collected from this sugar tax was to be earmarked for obesity education & diabetes there would be no real objection. It is not.

    It will go straight to the general Government Slush Fund to finance Governments spending addiction for things like cars, travel, credit cards & unearned raises.

    • Bermy says:

      Although i’m not as cynical. I do believe it should be earmarked for preventative health care solutions.

    • agatha christie says:

      Section 1.11: Revenue collected from the tax on the sugary items will also be earmarked for
      continued, and expanded, health promotion and disease prevention activities
      to encourage healthy lifestyles.

      In addition, tax on bottled water will be reduced to zero

      • Sickofantz says:

        Tax on plastic bottles should be 35% and only glass bottles should be zero.

        Frankly messing up the planet will kill us all where as fat people are still taking the decision to get fat.

  2. The Bermuda Progressive Labour Party is well educated and well in tune to the woes of this small society.
    If it be that the sugar tax is what is scrutinized, then so be it.
    Certain clusters of people NEVER questioned ANYTHING that the vicious, disorganized and insensitive oba instated.
    So, get over that and cope with PREMIER Burt puts n place for this small country.
    The poor and needy issues must be addressed even though that “certain cluster” either disagrees with or could not care less about Bermuda’s needy population.
    The P.L.P. are for the people , by the people, of the people.
    Find your grip TODAY!!!

    • Toodle-oo says:

      ‘Certain cluster’ .. haha , is that your latest addition to your arsenal of code words Betty ?

    • Anbu says:

      Who the hell do you think will be hit hardest by this? But i guess that doesnt matter to you and yours because its the plp burning you huh? Smh.

    • Jared says:

      Yawwnnnnn another paid PLP supporter…This isn’t about OBA or PLP. OPEN YOUR EYES, you are acting foolish. I do not support the PLP (however more so recently) and I cannot wait for this tax to hit the streets.

    • agatha christie says:

      so you are OK with the PLP not pushing forward with a progressive tax? You are OK with them adding new taxes which will increase costs for small businesses:? You are OK with them scrapping the 60:40 rule which means a flood of foreign investment with profits going overseas? will you be OK if the don’t balance the budget, adding even more to the debt they started? I could go … just get your blinkers off

    • wahoo says:

      Wow you sure know how to twist something into oblivion. I challenge you to prove any of the things you say about the OBA above. If the plp and it’s voters were so educated someone like yourself would not try to influence them the way you do.

      Sugar tax is a money grab pure and simple based on people’s addiction to sugar – YES sugar is addictive and if the plp are so educated they would know that and have pity on the addicts.

      Who is vicious now? Disorganized like in the bus and trash things? Insensitive like telling people that they have no say in what happens in the West if they live in the East?

      And that is all I have to say about that.

    • Jus' Wonderin' says:

      bla bla bla

    • therock says:

      “The Bermuda Progressive Labour Party is well educated and well in tune to the woes of this small society.”

      No, they’re not!

      “Certain clusters of people NEVER questioned ANYTHING that the vicious, disorganized and insensitive oba instated.”

      More lies from the bigots.
      Look, we get it, you hate ….. people…join a club, and shut up…you’re a bore.

    • Beverley J Connell says:

      Does it make sense to you that a slew imported sugary baked goods, cookies, etc. will NOT be affected by this tax? But all locally produced bakery products will rise in cost due to the rise in price of raw sugar? Targeting (penalizing) local Bermuda bakery/grocer businesses but excluding imported baked goods? Makes no sense. People will get their sugar fix from many other alternatives. This is nothing more than a revenue raiser (needed) under the guise of having health benefits.

  3. Facts: says:

    Fact: Everyone knows that smoking is horrible for you yet smokers still smoke and are willing to pay extra tax to do it. Consider this a “cancer expense PRE-PAYMENT PLAN.”

    Same should go for dangers of sugar: continue to educate, impose those sugar taxes, let people decide if their sugar intake is worth the tax. If it is worth it, let them pay the tax and consider it their own form of PRE-PAYMENT for future health issues.

    IT IS THEIR CHOICE TO PAY THE TAX! I am not given a choice to pay for their medical bills and I’m sick of it!

    • Anonymous says:

      Underrated post. This is an excellent idea. Healthy people should pay less for healthcare, and we should shift the bulk of the costs to people who choose to destroy thier bodies. Don’t like it? Get in shape and make better choices then.

  4. dick francis says:

    well they would say that, wouldn’t they? LOL! Come on guys – sure we were educated not to smoke but for how many people was the price the deciding factor to give up?
    You use a combination of methods to persuade people to give up things that are bad for them.
    The consultation document also makes it clear that revenue from the tax will be used for health education (which is what you are calling for) and it also reduces tax on water to zero, which will increase your sales, no?

  5. Truth is killin' me... says:


  6. Hmm says:

    I’m all for a sugar tax if they subsidize other foods as a result. For example. A 5% increase in sugary items and a 5% decrease in fresh produce and frozen vegetables/fruits. Otherwise you’re making the cost of living harder for Bermudians and it’s simply a money gab for the PLP government. If you really care about Bermudians you can’t raise the tax on one thing without offsetting it in another area. Otherwise you’re doing Bermudians more of an injustice than a service.

    • Sickofantz says:

      Ans tax the things that cause diabetes like carbs etc. It’s large potions that are causing obesity

  7. Fat tax says:

    Why not just tax people that are overweight or charge them more for insurance? I work hard to stay fit, so should they.

    • Real Deal says:

      i used to work a desk job and come home late at 7:00 pm some time. that puts lbs on you and leaves not much time for exercise but job was needed to survive

      • Chad says:

        There are exercises you can do at your desk. Desk Squats, Calf raises etc. I have the under desk cycle machine. It hooks up to my computer and I can track how far I have cycled. Its actually quite fun and you will even break a sweat if you do it for long enough. I also run during my lunch break, 45 minute run a day will do you wonders! Don’t let work get in the way of exercise. Its not easy but once you get in the swing of it it is fun. Also eat healthy, NO fried food, no sugar in your coffee. Eat salads, celery, eggs, protein shakes. Its easy.

        • PBanks says:

          That’s pretty cool, the cycle thing. Did you buy that locally?

  8. Fat tax says:

    Unlike being gay, this is a choice and they should be treated differently since they are willingly making this choice. We had no problem doing it to the lgbt community so why not the fat community.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh please, you believe that nonsense? You choose to be gay.

  9. Real Deal says:

    the problem is when the unhealthy stuff is the cheapest thing to drink when you are low on money. education wont do a thing unless there are other affordable options

  10. Real Deal says:

    who’s going to drink water 24/7

    • Chad says:

      I do….Sometimes I put vodka in it though and when I work overtime, and can afford it, I ball out and dress it up with a lemon or a lime. She tastes almost as good as Bermy Juice.


    • Anonymous says:

      I already do. Its great. Not only is it cheaper but I lost 15 pounds by switching to drinking only water.

  11. Northrock says:

    I was already laughing after 8 words.

    I was at Gorham’s the other day. A fat mother and a fat father, gave their already fat 5 year old a whole 4-finger kit-kat and a can of soda. That’s 370 calories right there, a third of the recommended intake for a child for the entire day. Would an extra few cents have prevented that? No, not a chance, that’s just a fund raiser. The parents need educating, as does the child.

  12. Stevie says:

    Sorry. Sugar tax no. The problem lies in what we eat. Too much peas & rice, mac & cheese, kfc and more…

    • Real Deal says:

      peas & rice? that’s starch and protein and is very healthy

      • Syrup says:

        Sure, if you don’t eat a bucket of it at a sitting, washed down with soda.

  13. San Patrick says:

    Sugar is not the problem; it is High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). HFCS has allowed beverage makers to lower their prices and thereby have increased consumption which is leading to the obesity problem – tell the truth. This is the only industry that can afford to give free refills. HFCS is in mostly all of our foods; ketchup, juices, you name it, it is there. The food industry only cares about profits, not our health. Our destroyed health allows the drug industry to come to the rescue.

  14. Me says:

    Yup I agree the discriminating domestestic sugar tax bill but church folks should not have to pay

  15. Eyeswideshut says:

    So sugar tax s the answer hey? That s a laugh that like telling a drug user that the price of drugs is going up to discourage him or her from using it, sugar is the most additive drug out there and everybody on it. Education who really needs it, the parents of course what sense does it make sending your children to school to get educated on the bad drug sugar and when they get home the parents are feeding it to them like a farmer feeds it pigs , it’s all about choices as soon as a chilled is weened of the nipple we stuff sugar down thier throat and expect them to resist the temptation I see sugar text as an increase in revenue for the government and nothing more.Our biggest problem is portion sizes we just eat to much damn food and that the bottom line we just need a little more will power and push away from the table,so don’t let government in our kitchen they are allready in our bedroom.

  16. Big Owl says:

    Everyone should shut up about putting a tax on this and a tax on that. What, you got money leaking out of your wallet? Is your cash on a kamikaze mission? If you wanna throw your money out of your pocket, give it to me instead, thank you. Furthermore, sugar tax is the lazy-man’s way of government implementing a solution. The voters of the current government are always the first to whine against anything done by the OBA when they were in power, and now again the current government party shows it just slaps new taxes on everyone for many things – in order to solve problems of various sorts. So, where are the whining voters now? Silent. Why? I cannot wrap my brain around that one. I guess they only want to whine when the other party is in or is running. They don’t have the feathers to think any other time, even if it means helping themselves.

  17. Observer says:

    So the sugar tax is coming and to the tune of a potential 75% and possibly 150%. So this will effect the entire island for generations to come. As I sat here and listened to the current health minister say the current health care prices are at $700 million for year, a cost of $11000 per person. My question to her is how much effort has been put into the health care providers that the island currently use and lobbied them to reduce there costs? We regulate out telecommunications, our electricity but not how health care why hasn’t that been looked at to regulate? We have an aging population also why aren’t more programs to keep them active and mobile and healthy and not popping pills like junkies ? When someone can answer those questions then we can have a serious talk about a sugar tax.