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 303.

    Why is the answer to everything "more tax"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    So tax to be used as a punitive or control measure then? And silly old me believed it was a neccessary evil to support the economy! So what is the massive tax on fuel designed to control then? (or is this one simply a seperate greed issue?) And when we are reduced to stale bread and ditch water, will taxation be enforced via 'terrorist control' CCTV camera's?

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    Have the artificial sweetener manufacturers successfully lobbied parliament?

    Cannot think of any other reason as they're more harmful than sugar!

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    Someone probably already said this: Yeah "reduced sugar"? Aspartame and other nasty chemicals instead!

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    HaHa they will be taxing us on our drinking water next o wait they already do what is left for them to tax. Isn't there already a tax on soft drinks isn't everything we buy we pay a tax

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Should we really be promoting low calorie substitutes? Many contain controversial ingredients which may cause even more harm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    Global corporations have become so efficient and clever at avoiding government taxes, plus there are various EU restrictions on taxing goods and services and transfer pricing issues

    so the only easy tax route left for governments is to come up with "consumer health taxes"

    ...and, like councils, your government is truly desperate for taxes

    ...any taxes

    ...from anywhere

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    I really think the Government aught to get out of the mentatlity of making decisions for us "for our own good". Didn't CS Lewis warn us that "a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive" because it never ends when its perpetrators do it with good conscience. We live in a free society which, to be free, must include the liberty to make the wrong decisions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    Who can argue against such an obviously beneficial health measure?

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.


  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    The tax is not the problem for me and my husband the problem is that my husband has type 1 diabetes and we increasingly find it a problem if he goes hypo and we need to get sugary drinks into him and so many of the drinks that are assumed to be sugary are NOT. Also the cheap shop own brands (value 2 litre) are the Fake sugars, low cal even though they don't stated that on the front of the label.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    It may start out as a tax to pay for fruit and veg in schools, which is a great idea BUT it will soon end up being part of the income of the government and the fruit will end up being cut to save a few quid or because the party in charge disagrees with it. Then we are just left with another tax on the poor with no benefit for them.
    This won't happen

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    There is no national health. There is only individual health"

    The individual health is largely determined by the circumstances they are in. Why should an innocent child suffer illness that might plague their entire lives simply because they were born to a poor rather than a rich family? They didn't make that choice.

    Employers need access to a healthy workforce and customers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Why is the Answer to Everything (as far as the Media and Governments arte concerned) is that it has to be Taxed for our own good?!!!!
    Why is giving money to a Government the solution?!
    Answer - It really isn't!!!
    However, the Media is just as responsible for "brainwashing" people into that we need to ADD a Tax for some unknown reason is the ONLy possible answer!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Another stupid idea.

    I personally choose to have sugared soft drinks rather than artificial sweeteners whose impact on health we are unsure of. Just limit the amount of soft drinks you have and teach your children self-discipline. It really is that simple!

    Taxation will only distort the market, remove natural food sources and doesn't address other issues particularly unhealthy fast-food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    Anything sweet can cause an addiction. All this is another excuse for a tax rise by said government to generate more money from us. I bet it’s got nothing to do with "concern" for the health of anyone.

    And sweeteners can damage health as much as sugar. This is introducing VAT on food by the back door to ensure we will, literally, swallow what's to come.

    We are not that stupid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    Huge corporations tax dodge every year costing us billions. Yet is is the average Joe that takes the punishment.

    Raising taxes on products or banning them only opens up black markets.

    The financial situation in this country is no excuse to raise taxes on everything the government deems unhealthy.

    fish n chip tax is next

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    Would these be the same medical bodies that are always telling us to drink less alcohol and want minimum alcohol pricing? Great, so you switch to soft drinks and get penalised for doing so. In any case, in pubs soft drinks cost considerably more than alcoholic ones so we are already being ripped-off quite enough, thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    @247 Bastiat

    That's a bit wrong-headed. You lay the whole of the responsibility at the consumer without examining the producer's role. If personal responsibility is a universal tenet then it must also apply to producers. If it isn't applied universally then its value is simply coercive and not transformative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    that glowing bottle of "orange juice" on the supermarket shelf, the one that has never been introduced to an orange in its life, has more crap in it than a can of coke yet gets away scot free. For now.

    "Im a low tax tory" of course you are Dave. Just list all the tax cuts youve introduced again please? i think i missed them.


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