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 683.

    What a load of rubbish , why should i fund or pay more tax , just another head boy ( Cameron ) tax

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    If high taxes make for a healthy population, we would be fittest nation in the world instead of being among the fattest and least healthy.

    I don’t know what the solution to the obesity epidemic is – maybe there isn’t one – but I am certain that putting up taxes isn’t the answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    Take benefits / housing away from 'the obese'. Fine them, jail them, make them pay extra NI. Take their kids into care. Put pictures of them on food packets as an 'example'. Refuse them service in shops / restaurants. Put them in the stocks / camps, shoot them.

    It's always frightening how these threads bring out the petty fascists. In stoking up fat hate, they're unbelievably effective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    Yet another excuse to squeeze more money out of the people of this country. I don't think this government should take any more in taxes until it can show it is able to manage it's finances properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    Although 'they' claim it will raise £1 Billion it won't because people will buy less and will switch to other products that 'they' probably won't consider to be healthy either.

    We don't need the Government given yet more excuses to tax us in an attempt to control what we do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 678.

    It isn't just SUGAR that is bad and will cause problems... the Aspartamine (sp?) which goes under so many different names as 'Sweeteners', is going to cause a far more serious problem in the cancer levels in years to come... why on earth doesn't the government ban that being used by anyone and then by all means tax all the sugary stuff!

  • rate this

    Comment number 677.
    Just now
    Funny how we're NEVER EVER given the opportunity to discus anything to do with Isreal and the Jews. Can't have Jewish sensitivities offended can we, no matter what atrocities they commit in Gaza and the West Bank.
    I'll discuss it with you. The whole thing is daft, you can have an issue with a country without have an issue with the religion in it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 676.

    U.K goes to war again and we get a HYS about fizzy drinks....

  • rate this

    Comment number 675.

    The legal teams often work pro-bono on this too"

    Why should I pay more for my legal costs so someone else who made a stupid decision can get theirs for free? That's always your argument to any socially funded proposal and it applies just as much here. If law firms make enough profit to fund pro-bono they can reduce their prices to their paying customers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 674.

    Oh 4FS. Really?!? Is this what "leading medical bodies" are really worried about? It's not one type of beverage that's the problem so just another tax will not help. Calories In - Calories Out people, it's simple maths. Take responsibility for what you feed your kids, and yourself, and don't give me that old line about needing to educate. You know the facts - just stop it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 673.

    Why should I "fund free fruit and meals in schools"?
    Let the parents take responsibility for that.

    While UK GDP is not growing and we are in economic crisis,
    we should not encourage population growth. The more people we have the less money the government can allocate to each of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 672.

    Funny how this wasn't introduced prior to the Olympics. Who sponsored the Olympics? McDonalds & Coca Cola. The government effectively gave a message to children that sport is linked to fast food, caffeine & sugar loaded drinks. Hypocrites.

  • Comment number 671.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 670.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    611.chocolate_starfish, & comrade Trout
    I told u where a freer market exists: go to Tesco... where you have Free Choice. To buy coke or water, milk, juice, tea, beer, anything u want. Why do u think we choose coke... um, because we want to! Yeesh, how blind can u be?

    Are u going to put a sugar tax Easter Eggs now? Why not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    @646. AM
    That will catch a lot of people who go weight training, play rugby, row or any one of a number of sports where size and strength are good. BMI doesn't measure fat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    650. FatPeace.

    While I agree with your point, this tax would have a positive effect on the NHS stat you gave and in-directly cause a better diet through out pricing such products that are un-healthy, which could be part of a better improved understanding of malnutrition. I would agree that much, much more has to be done in this area, but although aggressive, this tax is attempting to address it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    Leading medical bodies are calling for the increase, not the Tory Govt - read first, then comment. This is not the Government's fault, it is irresponsible parents, as per usual, who have left the "bringing up" of their children to everyone else. Tax parents who cannot parent. Simples.

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    always said it, this is the obvious conclusion of the anti smoking brigade, in order to improve health lets ban all these goodie two shoes groups, charities should not be endorsing more tax, this country is already a disgrace with the amount of charities that need to help the poplutation shows how badly we look after our own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    I only buy sugary drinks around Christmas to go with the demon alcohol - I bought 12 cans of Coke at Christmas and still have 10 left. Taxing sugary drinks more wouldn't stop me from buying them because I buy them so seldom My biggest gripe is that I will never drink and drive but a non-alcoholic drink at a pub or restaurant is almost as costly as a pint of beer!


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