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 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 884.

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

    Also, I drink these every so often but I exercise and maintain good health and I am slim...why should I pay MORE taxes to the lazy, obese community just because they cannot be bothered to take care of themselves?

    Maybe they should just take a jog? ...My opinon.

  • 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 301.

    Have the artificial sweetener manufacturers successfully lobbied parliament?

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


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