A New Tax on Sugary Drinks Has Been Announced in the UK

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Wednesday, 16 March 2016

In a move that has surprised campaigners, the government have announced a new tax on sugary soft drinks.

According to George Osborne, levies will be introduced in 2018, with the most sugary drinks experiencing the highest rates. There are to be two bands: one for total sugar content more than 5 grams per 100ml and the second higher band is for the most sugary drinks, containing above 8 grams per 100ml.

The tax comes amid rising concern about the mounting levels of obesity; the average teenager consumes three times the recommended daily amount of sugar and soft drinks are their biggest single added sugar source. It will be imposed on soft drink companies in accordance to the amount of sugary drinks they import or produce. The smallest producers will be included from the scheme, as will pure fruit juices and milk-based soft drinks.

The official recommendations stipulate that we are to gain no more than 5 percent of our energy intake from sugar. Despite this, children of primary school age are consuming 14.7 percent of their energy from sugar and the figure is 15.6 percent for teenagers. At 21.1 percent, adults are at more than twice the recommended level, according to a study by Public Health England (PHE).

Currently, the single largest source of sugar for children aged 11-18 years old is soft drinks, which provide 29 percent of the daily sugar intake. These drinks amount to more than 16 percent of the daily calorie intake, even among younger children. The PHE report discovered that if everyone got down to the 5 percent level within half a decade, 77,300 lives would be saved over the next 25 years. There would also be six million fewer tooth decay cases and the NHS would save £14.4 billion.

An estimated £520 million will be raised each year by the tax and this will be spend on increasing funding for primary school sport resources. Mr Osborne said the investment in school sports would mean that pupils would have access to a wider variety of activities.

The move comes as a huge surprise to health campaigners, who have welcomed the tax, along with celebrity chef and sugar tax campaigner Jamie Oliver.

The government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy was originally due last autumn, but it has repeatedly been delayed and David Cameron was thought to be reluctant to introduce a tax on sugar.

Mr Osborne said that currently, five year old children are consuming their own body weight in sugar on an annual basis and experts have predicted that 70 percent of girls and more than half of all boys could face obesity.

Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, Chris Askew, said the tax is promising news. The charity has campaigned for this measure for some time as over-consumption of sugar is leading to the large rise in the number of people at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.