The United Kingdom has announced drafts for a sugar tax set to begin in April 2018, addressing the country’s growing obesity problems.
The tax is set to work in two different ways: a smaller tax for soft drinks with more than 5-8 grams of sugar per 100ml and a bigger one for drinks with more than 8g per 100ml. However, pure fruit juices, sugary milkshake, and yogurt drinks will be excluded from the tax though authorities stress that people should keep consumption to under 150 ml / day.
The move is supported by researchers, who argue that this is a much-needed step to limit obesity – especially teenage obesity. The move will also combat diabetes and heart diseases. Dr Max Davie, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:
“We are very pleased to see government moving forward with this draft legislation. The sugary drinks that will be affected by this tax have no nutritional benefit and often contain levels of sugar that are above a child’s daily recommended limit. These drinks are a major contributor to the high sugar intakes of children, particularly teenagers, and we are in no doubt that they are, in part, contributing to this country’s obesity crisis.”
Diabetes is a growing health concern in many developed and developing countries around the world, with 1.5 million deaths directly due to diabetes in 2012 alone. All sugary foods can threaten health, but sugary drinks are particularly dangerous. Unlike sugar from food, the sugar from drinks enters the body quickly, which can overload the liver and pancreas. France was one of the first countries to introduce a targeted sugar tax on soft drinks in 2012, with a similar measure being announced in Mexico in 2013.
Supporters of the tax cite tobacco taxes which are similar in nature and have been wildly successful in most cases. Cancer Research UK estimates a 20% tax on sugary drinks could prevent 3.7 million cases of obesity over the next decade and the World Health organization also backs the tax up, stating that the government could use the tax money to fund subsidies for healthy fruits and vegetables. Worldwide, it’s estimated that sugary drinks alone kill 180,000 adults worldwide.
But of course, the industry negates this. Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, said:
“There is no evidence worldwide that taxes of this sort reduce obesity, and it is ironic that soft drinks are being singled out for tax when we’ve led the way in reducing sugar intake, down over 17% since 2012.”