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 963.

    Just one more step to taxing everthing on the planet ..including the air we breathe .before i pay anymore tax I want to see them stop wasting the tax i already pay from my hard earned money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 962.

    vat on pasties, vat on sports supplements, vat on sugary drinks ( much easier for HMRC to do than a duty), then due to difficulties in definining junk foods vat on all food, in line with the rest of Europe.

    These quangos have their instructions from the paymasters in the treasury

    ok maybe not the Woodland Folk.......I hope!

  • rate this

    Comment number 961.

    This sly underhanded sneeky Government is slowly taxing the food we eat without us realizing it. Have a look at your till receipt from your shopping bill and see what food and goods that we all need have been taxed. Stuff like toothpaste,washing powder deo,kitchen towels and loo rolls are all taxed. I bought some roasted in shell pea nuts for our visiting squirrels and even got screwed for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 960.


    Singapore ? Now I know you're having a laugh - one of the most regulated states in existence. Little freedom of speech or assembly ?

    Keep taking the ( state subsidised ) tablets ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 959.

    Hold on there health fascists. You haven't clobbered alcohol yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 958.

    884. Trunksforyou
    I think taxing this is a silly idea... people will just find other fatty food / drink to substitute for the newly taxed drinks.

    Then we can tax that too. Until people stop buying so much junk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.

    @937 The-Dude

    When he starts defining fructose as synthetic or natural - when your body makes no such distinction - then you know there is new style fruit loopery involved.

    Lots of other less-than-factual stuff in there as well, too numerous to mention.

    If aspartame is a neurotoxin - as he claims - then why aren't I ( and millions of others ) dead ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    "We make too many excuses for fat people. I got fat because I am a greedy, lazy troglodyte. "

    Hallo Eric, fancy a Pickle sandwich?

  • rate this

    Comment number 955.

    Why not decrease the price of healthy foods (fruit, veg and drinks). I agree that a lot of the unhealthier foods are cheaper than the good stuff, but why make the prices higher when their already high enough as it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    Maybe there should be taxes on people who don't exercise instead of taxes on drinks that aren't a problem in and of themselves? Can I look forward to paying even more taxes on the isotonic drinks I enjoy after cycling the best part of 100 miles?

    All this will do is take fat people and make them fat and poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    946. Little_Old_Me
    No I don't. It is not an insult. The NHS (and a plethora of government programs) meets the criteria of socialism. Those who advocate such socialist policies are, by definition, socialist.
    The comment @705 was removed by your comrade, Trout, I believe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.

    Well the government taxes alcohol to discourage, so why not soft drinks as well. Maybe soon even water that is not the purest. And if you breathe polluted air in London tax that as well to discourage people from coming into London to inhale it. Tax coffee because it increases blood pressure. Tax Brussels sprouts because they are high in vitamin K - your blood might clot and cause a stroke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 951.

    Tax all unhealthy food. I am overweight myself, but I realise that I must pay more into the system due to the open heart surgery I will no doubt end up requiring. We make too many excuses for fat people. I got fat because I am a greedy, lazy troglodyte. Why is this so hard for others to say?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 950.

    If anyone thinks a 20p tax will stop people drinking these products they are living in cloud cookoo land. Just like a minimum price on alcohol will never stop the country drinking. If the taxes need to be raised then so be it but it should be done honestly not by stealth!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 949.

    People simply need to get in their heads that fatty sugary foods (and drinks) are bad for you. Not tax the rest of us who occasionally open a can of pop.

    Also if this policy is going ahead I would like to see the money raised go straight into buying free meals, not into the governments 'tax pot' where we can't see where its going.

    Also I'm guessing drinks like 'diet coke' will be unaffected?

  • rate this

    Comment number 948.

    At some point someone is going to claim all these taxes is an invasion of their human rights, and then what?

  • rate this

    Comment number 947.

    @199 "why does it only apply to soft drinks & not all sugary foods?"

    Coke: quick / easy to drink & contains addictive caffeine along with high sugar. Hormones from the pancreas, called insulin and glucagon help to regulate blood glucose levels. Excess high GI foods can lead to hyperinsulimia, insulin resistance, weight gain, and possibly obesity + insulin resistance syndrome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 946.

    933.Bastiat - "....Show me where, anywhere, where I have insulted anyone

    Some have had their comments removed for calling people idiots on this thread however..."

    Your regularly use the term "socialist" as an insult! No idea who had a comment removed for that reason on this thread - I had one removed for being off topic, but not for insulting anyone if you mean me?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 945.

    Why ban dairy products? I eat Loads of cream and butter - they don't cause weight gain. it's only sugar. And Andrew, as a type 2 diabetic, let me assure you that fruit juice has a HUGE impact on blood glucose levels which would cause me to gain weight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    Leading medical bodies saying tax everything thats bad for you, its ok for them to say that as they earn enough so its not noticed, but more taxes on food and drink will just hurt the less well off even more with budgets already being squeezed, are the medical profession on this planet!!


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