Call for soft drink sugar tax in Budget

Fizzy drinks Excess sugar raises the risk of obesity

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Leading medical bodies are calling for a 20p-per-litre levy on soft drinks to be included in this year's Budget.

More than 60 organisations, including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, are backing the recommendation by food and farming charity Sustain.

They say it would raise £1bn a year in duty to fund free fruit and meals in schools to improve children's health.

The soft drinks industry says raising taxation is unnecessary.

The British Soft Drink Association (BSDA) says companies are already playing their part in the fight against obesity.

The BSDA's director general Gavin Partington said 61% of soft drinks "now contain no added sugar and we have seen soft drinks companies lead the way in committing to further, voluntary action as part of the government's Responsibility Deal calorie-reduction pledge."

He said 10p from every 60p can of drink already goes to the government in tax.

"Putting up taxes even further will put pressure on people's purses at a time when they can ill afford it," he said.

Sugary drinks

  • Sugary foods and drinks can only make us gain weight if overall we eat more calories than we use for energy
  • Sugary drinks are potentially hazardous because they do not fill us up, meaning we can easily consume too much
  • A 330-millilitres (half-pint) sugary drink typically provides 35g (0.17oz), or nine lumps of sugar
  • The British Dietetic Association says some research suggests sugary drinks may be contributing to obesity in children
  • In the UK, one in four adults is classified as obese and one in three children is already obese or overweight before they finish primary school
  • If you want to cut down, try switching to drinking pure juice diluted with fizzy water, diet fizzy drinks, milk, no-added-sugar squash or water

But Sustain says the tax is a simple measure that would help save lives by reducing sugar in our diets and raising money to protect children's health.

It says the UK consumes more than 5,727 million litres of sugary soft drinks a year. Adding a 20p tax for every litre sold would raise more than £1.1bn.

Mike Rayner, of the department of public health at Oxford University and chairman of Sustain, said: "Just as we use fiscal measures to discourage drinking and smoking and help prevent people from dying early, there is now lots of evidence that the same approach would work for food.

"This modest proposal goes some way towards making the price of food reflect its true costs to society. Our obesity epidemic causes debilitating illness, life threatening diseases and misery for millions of people. It is high time government did something effective about this problem."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Our primary responsibility is to help the nation to be healthier.

"We keep all international evidence under review. But we believe the voluntary action we have put in place is delivering results."

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham disagrees and says it is clear that a voluntary approach is not working.

He said: "Labour is consulting on whether new limits on sugar, salt and fat content in food aimed at children would be a better way forward. This would help parents protect their children from foods which contain excessive levels of sugar, salt and fat in a way that a tax wouldn't."

Over the past 10 years, the consumption of soft drinks containing added sugar has fallen by 9% while the incidence of obesity has increased by 15%.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1003.

    Instead of targeting soft drinks in particular for a "fat tax", why not have a sugar tax on foods as a whole. The amount of tax levied depends on the % sugar content. This would simplify implementation of such a tax, it would encourage manufacturers to reduce sugar content, and not penalise only the soft drinks industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1002.

    Sugary (soft) drinks already cost more in pubs than beer (2/3 of a pint of Coke is more expensive than a full pint of beer), supposedly without any extra tax - this will hardly encourage 'designated drivers' to go out and keep their drunken friends off the road.
    Why is the only answer to anything 'increase or introduce a tax' and since when were sugary drinks the only cause for obesity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    Did anyone hear on Radio 5 live the man standing up for soft drinks claiming that the average person has only 2% of calories from them....there's 7% just in one can!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    I can just see the news headline in 10 years, it'll be something like; 'Gang sentenced to 30 years for smuggling Dolly Mixtures' Nanny state at her best eh?"

    I hear that there is an arrest warrant out for Bertie Bassett....

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    Sorry to say but this country has a large proportion of people who are too lazy to cook and gulled into thinking supermarkets are cheaper and offer good food, neither of which is true. The government is in the pockets of the rubbish food manufacturers and the rubbish food purveyors. They will never bite the hand that feeds them so it's up to us to buy and cook decent food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    What about the ones of us who want an occasional treat? why do we have to pay for this supposed 'obesity crisis'
    Anyway when companies get rid of shugar they replace it with sweeteners of which some can cause cancer and other health problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    The article and BBC1's 6pm News miss an excellent opportunity of naming the primary culprit for the soft drink-induced component of the obesity surge. It's the High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) that accumulates in the liver and severely affects metabolism that needs to be named not the vague "sugary drinks" or - even worse on air "fizzy drinks. Check your soft drink concentrates & packaged foods.

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    i.e. @ 987, we are being taxed on sweets and cereal and chocolate i'm afraid, this is what I was saying in an earlier comment about them sneaking tax on our food and escensial goods like toothpaste and loo rolls. Have a look at your till receipt,it will show what goods you have been taxed on an at what percent. Some is at 20 and some at 5 per cent. All sneaked on our shopping bill more and more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    People should think twice before eating and drinking. They must consider the effect that bad food will provoke on their health and pockets on the short run. People must be held accountable for their own acts and decisions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    It will be cheaper soon to buy alcohol, rather than fizzy pop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    is it more expensive to treat cirrosis of the liver?????????????????????? than obesity..........................

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    This has all the hallmarks of barrel-scraping for no other reason than some do-gooders think that sugar is the root cause of obesity. It's already disappeared from jams and marmalades in addition to most fruit cordials and been replaced with more harmful 'sweeteners'. Numpties all of them so lets get rid of cooking oils, spreads, fatty meats and other natural products while we're at it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    Care of 986.mjmwhite

    Here's an article saying: taxing "fat" had inflated food prices and put jobs at risk.

    Why would this not happen to sugar too?

    This is stupidity of the highest order.

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    OF COURSE! The comment some way back about our human rights! This lot trying to tax every thing we like so that we can't afford it is a corrupt way of stopping us from having it, so indirectly is against or human rights. If we want to drink sugary drinks it is OUR decision and of no business of any one else. This lot all over,any thing we like is either illegal bad for us or we're taxed on it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    Why do our politicians think they can solve everything with a tax!
    So unimaginative.
    Carbon, tax, sugar tax, fat tax, truancy tax, being naughty tax, poor tax...

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    If you subsidise something, you get more of it. Simple, right?

    So if we subsidise people's poor menu choices, they'll just make more of them.

    If someone else pays for your healthcare for problems derived from eating too much sugar, what do you care?
    Our NHS (socialism) abrogates personal responsibility, onto innocent 3rd parties, to all of our detriment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    There's too much attention devoted to 'obesity' in schools already. Last year's Body Image report suggested it is fuelling EDs and hatred toward fat kids. A sibling told me that her child had been made to write poems about why being fat is bad, an acquaintance had to homeschool (fat) daughter because staff wouldn't protect her. State-sponsored bullying is not going to make anyone thin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    This is just another ridiculous tax. What about sweets and chocolate? Some cereals have a huge amount of sugar in them? Why not tax them while your at it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    What about a fat tax

    "Denmark to abolish tax on high-fat foods"

    brilliant idea???????

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    How about we sack all these "scientists" & I rally use the term loosely. Who come up with pointless & useless facts. Such as, Dogs fleas can jump higher than Cat fleas. (Nobel prize winner 2008), & this lot who again are on a bumper wage. See the savings that brings. The main reason children are getting obese is lack of exercise & this is mainly due to lack of facilities provided by the councils.

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    Why don't we look at it the other way around...

    Abolish the NHS. Without it, we wouldn't be taxed, MA$$IVELY, to pay for:
    People's personal choices.
    An army of public servants working for a State Monopoly.

    Without the NHS, people will e forced to take personal responsibility for their child's diet. They'll have lots more £s in their pocket. Healthcare costs will fall as the monopoly dies.


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