UK has announced the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks, based on the amount of sugar in the beverages. The main goal is to “help tackle childhood obesity, by incentivising companies to reduce the sugar in the drinks they sell [and] to fund a doubling of the primary schools sports premium to £320 million per year from September 2017.” It’s a much needed measure for a nation with an evergrowing obesity rate.
When a new tax is introduced, people usually get upset, but this shouldn’t be the case this time. This is a much needed measure, especially considering 28.1% of adults in the United Kingdom were recognised as clinically obese. For children, data from the Health Survey for England (HSE) conducted in 2014 found that 17% of children were obese and an additional 14% of children were overweight. The main culprit is sugar, and soft drinks contain way more sugar than is healthy. The decision writes:
Sugar consumption is a major factor in childhood obesity, and sugar-sweetened soft drinks are now the single biggest source of dietary sugar for children and teenagers.81 A single 330ml can of cola can contain more than a child’s daily recommended intake of added sugar.82 Public health experts have identified sugar-sweetened soft drinks of this kind as a major factor in the prevalence of childhood obesity.83
Budget 2016 announces a new soft drinks industry levy targeted at producers and importers of soft drinks that contain added sugar. The levy will be designed to encourage companies to reformulate by reducing the amount of added sugar in the drinks they sell, moving consumers towards lower sugar alternatives, and reducing portion sizes.
When announcing this new law, Chancellor said that the tax will be introduced in September 2017, to allow companies time to adjust, amongst other things, the recipes for their drinks. He added that the tax will be “assessed on the volume of sugar sweetened drinks they produce or import.”
The tax will work on two levels. The first will be applied on all drinks with more than five grams of sugar per 100ml, and the second, which will be higher, for drinks with more than eight grams per 100ml. Natural juices and milk are exempted from this tax, because unlike juices or milk, sugary drinks contain none of the necessary nutrients, making them more likely to contribute to obesity. The levy is expected to raise £520 million in the first year.
The scientific evidence has been loud and clear on this matter: if we want to fight obesity, we have to fight sugar. Sugary drinks especially should be targeted. A systematic review published in 2006 that examined 50 years of studies found a link between consumption of sugary drunks and obesity. Subsequent studies have found similar results.
“The correlations between soda and obesity are extremely strong,” Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University and the author of the book Soda Politics told Business Insider.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!