Health Minister “Confident Sugar Tax Is Working”

February 3, 2020

The Minister of Health is “confident the sugar tax is working based on 2019 data,” while also adding that it is “regrettable” that suppliers and retailers “have not passed on the duty changes to consumers in the way they should have – by lowering the price of items with reduced tax such as cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, oranges, and apples.”

These comments follow after Minister of Finance Curtis Dickson confirmed that some $5.4 million has been raised by the sugar tax since its inception in 2018, with OBA MP Michael Dunkley saying that “a well-intentioned initiative to reduce obesity has to date only resulted in a tax grab for the PLP.”

The exchange in the House of Assembly on Friday about the Sugar Tax

A spokesperson said, “The Minister of Health is confident the sugar tax is working based on 2019 data.”

Minister Kim Wilson said, “The purpose of the tax was to incentivise healthier behaviours and choices.

“October 2019 data shows behaviours are changing favourably to meet our policy aim. An independently conducted Omnibus survey of 400 residents found that sugary drink consumption was 42% in 2019.

“This is a significant reduction from 50% of adults drinking one or more sugary drinks a day in 2014. The reduction was greatest among men whose sugary drink consumption went down 59% to 36% in the same period. This is a positive indication that behaviours are changing favourably.”

Minister of Health Kim Wilson stated, “When the Sugar Tax was implemented, in order to continue encouraging consumers to eat healthier, the Government also reduced import duty to 0% on healthy options such as fruits and vegetables.

“It is extremely regrettable that suppliers and retailers have not passed on the duty changes to consumers in the way they should have – by lowering the price of items with reduced tax such as cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, oranges, and apples.

“It is also unfortunate that suppliers and retailers did not differentiate the price of regular and sugar-free drinks. Many consumers would have observed that the cost of sugar-free drinks remains largely equal to the cost of drinks containing sugar, despite sugar free options having 15% duty vs sugary drinks paying 75% duty.

“Nevertheless, there are indications that some of the duty change was passed on to consumers. Our monitoring of prices found that the cost of sugar tax items rose between 13% and 26% on average, compared to non-sugar items which increased 5% during the same period.

“Given the positive changes in behavior we have seen to date, it is likely that passing on the full impact of the duty changes would result in even greater behavior change. We look to the vendors to fulfil their civic duty and pass on the duty changes to consumers to incentivize further behavior change in the population.

“On the positive side, there are lot more sugar-free options on the market, providing more choice to consumers. The public discussion of the sugar tax has raised awareness on the harms of sugar consumption and has helped to educate the general public to redirect their choices to non-sugary items.

“Just like tobacco use decreased from 22% in 1999 before smoking was banned in public places, to now 13%; so we hope to see improvements in reduced consumption of sugary drinks and reduced obesity and life-style diseases in the long run.

“Furthermore, Bermuda received a ‘Walk the Talk Award’ from the Healthy Caribbean Coalition for the introduction of the sugar tax as excellence in non-communicable disease prevention. Public Health England [PHE] and the Pan American Health Organization are very interested in our sugar tax because it went beyond just sugary beverages. PHE has commissioned Imperial College London to do an independent evaluation of Bermuda’s sugar tax.”

“The Ministry of Health reminds the public that while population changes in overweight, obesity and chronic disease cannot be achieved in a short span of time, the first step is to change behaviours.

“A recently-released U.K. study [Oxford University] found that the sugar tax [in place in the U.K. since 2015] was working. Sugar consumption dropped by a teaspoon a day, since the tax was launched. Additionally, since 2015 the sugar in soft drinks sold in the UK has dropped by 30 per cent.”

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Comments (29)

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  1. John E. Thorne says:

    Diet sodas have gone up dramatically since the sugar tax! Why???????

  2. sandgrownan says:

    Tenuous at best Minister, and I suggest you don’t have hard data. It’s merely anecdotal, a feeling. A 400 person survey doesnt a conclusion make.

    Comparing to tobacco is misleading. Isn’t the reduction in smoking driven by hard public health messaging and an outright ban on smoking in public places? Why don’t you ban sugary soda’s if you think it’s such a big deal?

  3. Go away says:

    It is a stupid useless tax and you want to blame retailers.??Your survey is flawed as a PERCENTAGE of the population.Why don’t you and your tax grabbing colleges WALK THE TALK. The general population is OVERTAXED and tired of this govts spending. There are other ways to address the overweight issue of some. TELL ME MINISTER where is this massive tax result of some 5 million plus dollars going??

    • Trump supporter says:

      Over paid ministers,trips.1.2 to the dr,and now hes going to get more after he Sue’s HIS govt.

  4. Joe Bloggs says:

    “it is “regrettable” that suppliers and retailers “have not passed on the duty changes to consumers in the way they should have – by lowering the price of items with reduced tax such as cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, oranges, and apples.”

    I wonder if that is because of the increased cost of doing business in Bermuda?

  5. Cow Polly says:

    when you have increased foreign currency purchase tax, when you have increased a range of other taxes and charges, while you have generally made it more expensive to do business here, is it any wonder why the duties you mention have not been implemented?
    Or would you prefer to see them implemented and people losing their jobs as a result?

  6. Where is the 5 million plus going is right ???????

  7. Hard to believe says:

    I cannot believe the stupidity of anyone making a statement based on absolutely no evidence.

  8. Hope says:

    Ridiculous data examples. Comparing 2014 data with 2019…if you only bought in the change recently then you can’t compare to such old data, anything could account for the decrease over a 5 year period.

    If Govt can institute a tax then why can’t they enforce a maximum profit percentage on healthy foods or non-sugary drinks?!!

  9. Rada Gast says:

    “Sugar tax is working” – yes, it’s bringing in more revenue for the Government. Wokring just fine, thank you very much.

  10. Humphrey says:

    Who is it working for it’s not stopping people from buying anything with sugar,all it does is hit the people who can least afford another one of your money grabbing taxes .

  11. False, But Lie Good says:

    The only and I repeat ONLY thing i am CONFIDENT of is the irresponsibility and outright nonsense this current govt spouts on about on a daily basis and their own lemmings follow them down the path. The Spin Dr has trained them well. Are you trying to tell me by your independent survey( tounge in cheek ) found out of a population of approx 58000 you only asked 400 NOT A GOOD REPRESENTATION from that 42 % of people had a sugary drink BS. You are taking us for fools , not wise!

  12. Question says:

    If ‘not all changes have been passed on to the consumer’, how can she claim the tax is influencing consumers?

    • Madge says:

      So how come my sugar free jam costs more then the regular brand .that has a high sugar content ??

      • Equilibrium says:

        It’s called Pure Greed , fomented at the hands and minds of Government leaders. Because people are being
        Taxed to death in this country, the seeds of greed have sprouted and flourished. Bermuda is drastically changed. And with the steady stream of layoffs and businesses closing, (another in today’s news), we continue to contract at the hands of empty Politicians.
        What tax will be raised or implemented next?!
        Help us all.

  13. MB says:

    Tbh if stores slashed prices on some of the veg apples and oranges the Minister mentions I wouldn’t buy it anyway it’s so old and substandard.
    If people could rely on stores to consistently provide healthy FRESH produce they would buy it. If Lindos was open on Sundays when the majority of people shop then more would buy fresh produce too…. but here we are… taxing sodas as if that’s the issue

  14. More taxes less income….dumber than a mailbox on a Sunday!

  15. T W says:

    When I watched MP Jason Hayward on TV I am keenly aware of the cluelessness of the PLP. He stupidly compares Bermuda to the US and Canada referring to legislation to keep prices low. He seems to be saying what works in a trillion dollar economy will work here. If you supress prices and profits in Bermuda, products will simply disappear. Then what? Surround the House of Assembly again?

  16. Joe Bloggs says:

    Dear Minister Wilson,

    Your confidence is undermined by your Finance Minister.

    When asked how much the Sugar Tax had contributed to the increase cost of food and the cost of living the Minister remarked that this would be engaging in speculation.

    When asked if he believed the Sugar Tax is a regressive and unfair tax the Minister said he had not thought about it.


    It is most concerning that the Finance Minister has not thought about the economic consequences of introducing the sugar tax. Is that the usual position of the PLP Government when introducing and increasing taxes, to do so without considering the economic consequences to Bermuda and Bermudians?

    • CHRIS says:

      that’s the PLP handbook! do things to please themselves without thinking things through!

  17. saud says:

    “Surround the House of Assembly again?”

    No, they only do that because of “icky” gay people.

  18. CP says:

    the only thing the sugar tax has done is INCREASED the cost of anything with the minutest amount of sugar or sugar substitute in it. Therefore, it has increased the cost of living…

  19. Dick Francis says:

    this shows a fundamental lack of understanding by the Minister which is scary .. supermarkets operate on low profit margins and high turnover, even with duty cuts, it is difficult to reduce profit margins much further.
    But add into the mix the increased cost of doing business – higher private health insurance, increased taxes and charges et – they need more money just to pay the bills!

  20. Enquiring mind says:

    Have they explained to date (October 2020) what has been done with the 5.4 million that they have earned back from sugar tax? And what are the new figures since this report?