Leonie Ben-Simon
Leonie Ben-Simoncourtesy

What an uproar about the new government reducing taxes on single-use kitchenware and sugary drinks!

Tax reduction where needed by almost half of the population should be welcomed. The past decision by MK Liberman to tax these single-use plates was aimed at the hareidi population, but not only. Mothers of large families, those inviting guests for Shabbat and especially working women do not have a housekeeper to stand there washing-up dishes, or rinsing and loading the dishwasher if they have one. They need every extra bit of help that they can get, with disposable dishes now part of their lives.

Then we have the environmental concerns and they are not only for disposables. Washing dishes requires a lot of water and when Israel is building its sixth desalination plant, part of the twenty or more projected ones, saving water is on the environmental agenda, not to be ignored. Not only the water, but also the electricity used in dishwashers and the cost of replacing dishwashers every few years must be taken into account.

Taxes on sugary drinks are one way to reduce the dependence upon non-healthy consumables, but often people simply absorb the extra cost. However, there are plenty of other ways to do this more effectively. Advertising healthy drinks as an alternative, scare campaigns notifying the population of dire consequences when consuming sugar-loaded drinks is one way to change behaviours. An example could be a photo of a jug of water with ice and a slice of lemon or orange blasted across TV and mobile screens.

Sectors of the population who are presently not receiving the exposure to messages of good health can be targeted separately. Consultation with leading rabbis to notify their population of the danger to good health, as well as concentrating upon their own media can work. The statistics and proof of medical damage and its cause are clearly documented to show to these leaders.

The main key should be education in schools. Children need to understand the power of the big companies selling these drinks and how advertising targets them to show a particular lifestyle. They will then take the message home and influence their families not to buy products that endanger their health. It should be noted that many young parents are already aware of this issue and are buying healthy food, whilst passing this message on to the next generation.

Increasing taxes was a sharp flick of the wrist decision. There are better ways to change behaviours, particularly when competing with multi-national companies with unlimited advertising budgets. Lessons can be learnt from how cigarette companies are slowing dying when faced with realistic and out-of-box the thinking, legislation and smart actions by governments.

The budget is there: once lifestyle changes are made health will improve, and with it less money spent on diseases that could have been prevented