I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 and 219 together.
The Programme for Partnership Government commits to a number of taxation measures which promote healthier lifestyles.
The PfPG commits to making Ireland tobacco free (less than 5% of population smoking) by 2025. The Government is committed to increasing excise duty on tobacco in successive budgets as one policy measure amongst multiple other public health interventions in order to achieve this goal. Ireland has increased tobacco products taxation in 20 of the past 24 budgets, and data from the National Tobacco Control office of the Health Service Executive shows that smoking prevalence amongst the general population has fallen from 28.3% in June 2003 to 19.2% in 2015.
The PfPG also commits to the introduction of a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks (SSDs). The tax will contribute towards important public health goals, as well providing a new source of revenue for public spending and decreases in personal income taxation. The tax on sugar-sweetened drinks has been proposed by the Department of Health in order to reduce added sugar in diets, particularly the diets of children and young people, and comprises one measure in a comprehensive Department of Health plan to tackle obesity in Ireland, which is due to be published this year. Sugar-sweetened drinks taxes have been introduced in a number of European countries in recent years, with the UK due to introduce a soft-drinks industry levy from 2018. The design and implementation of the tax is a matter for the budgetary process.
Stakeholders who have called for a SSD tax include the Irish Heart Foundation, Social Justice Ireland, the Irish Medical Organisation, the Royal College of Physicians Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the HRB Centre for Health and Diet Research.