The National Society of Public Health (Nasjonalforeningen for folkehelsen) said it wants sugar to be taxed in Norway in a response provided during the hearing round of the government’s work on a new public health statement, newspaper Aftenposten reports.
The public health society is one of several societies and other health organisations in Norway who want the return of the sugar tax, the newspaper writes.
The Ministry of Health and Care Services (Helse- og omsorgsdepartementet) is working on a statement on public health to be released next spring and has therefore asked for organisations and agencies to submit inputs over the issue.
The hearing stage of the process showed that several of organisations support the use of taxes to influence the consumer prices of healthy and unhealthy food, Aftenposten writes.
In the past, Norway has taxed sugar more heavily than it does today. But the previous government scrapped taxes on alcohol-free soft drinks and products that use sugar as raw ingredients, such as chocolate or cakes.
Tax is still applied to purchases of raw sugars including sugar cubes, caster sugar and similar products, with consumers paying the sugar tax at the point of purchase.
Because all of the sugar taxes were implemented as a way for the state to raise funds, rather than for health reasons, they did not necessarily impact similar foods in the same way and were therefore criticised as being ineffective from a health perspective, according to Aftenposten.
Two of the three taxes were for this reason eventually lifted following parliamentary discussions, but were never replaced.
“The removal of the sugar tax has taken away one of the most important levers we had to be able to affect consumer choice. Over 100 sector experts and organisations were behind the opposition to (former prime minister Erna) Solberg’s removal of the tax. It should be reimplemented but should have a clearer health objective,” the National Society of Public Health said in its hearing response.
A string of health organisations, including the National Society of Heart and Lung Disease (Landsforeningen for hjerte- og lungesyke), and cancer and diabetes charities along with dentists and doctors’ professional organisations are all also reported by Aftensposten to support the return of the tax.
The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise’s (NHO) food and drink section, NHO Mat og drikke, and breweries interest organisation Bryggeri og drikkevareforeningen said they opposed it.
“The (sugar) tax policy must be transparent and cannot be looked at without also considering border shopping [crossing the border to Sweden to purchase products without the tax, ed.],” the brewery organisation said.