The Government is preparing draft legislation for a tax on sugar-sweetened sodas and soft drinks (Photo: Marlith/ Wikipedia Creative Commons)
The UK Government is preparing draft legislation for a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, which is set to be introduced from April 2017. Called the ‘sugar tax’ it is hoped that increasing the price of sugary drinks will help to combat the rising levels of obesity. There will be two bands of tax one for soft drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml and a higher one for drinks with more than 8g per 100ml. Pure fruit juices, milkshakes, and yoghurt drinks will be exempt from the tax.
With rising obesity levels in the UK, there have been calls for the Government to take action. One area that has been suggested is a reduction in the consumption of sugar, and over the past few years, there has been pressure on the food and drinks industry to reduce levels of sugar, fat, and salt in their products. Many companies have already begun cutting the amount of sugar in their drinks. However, health campaigners have felt this has not gone far enough and have been supporting a so-called ‘sugar tax’.
Other countries have already introduced a sugar tax, including Mexico and Hungary – and South Africa is introducing a sugar tax next year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has supported countries that have introduced a sugar tax and said it wants to see lower consumption of “free sugars”, which it said will lower incidences of obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.
If the new legislation is introduced next year in the UK the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates the levy could add 18p to 24p to the price of a litre of fizzy drink if the full cost is passed on to the consumer. This amounts to an extra 6p on a regular can of Fanta and Sprite, and an extra 8p on a regular can of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Irn-Bru. The Government has said it expects the levy to raise £520m in the first year.
The tax will not be added to fruit juices but experts warn that these can also contain a lot of sugar and people should consume no more than 150ml per day. Similarly, yoghurt and sugary milkshakes will be exempt as it is felt that these products contain calcium which is important for teenagers and growing children and adding a tax could be counterproductive.