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Britain's New Sugar Tax

by Sangeeta Haindl

A new sugar tax on the soft drinks industry has been announced, to be introduced in April 2018. This move has been hailed by campaigners as a significant step in the fight against child obesity. The most high-profile supporter has been TV celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, who has introduced a sugar levy in his restaurants and set up an e-petition that saw more than 150,000 people backing such a tax. This British sugar tax will apply to drinks based on sugar content, particularly fizzy drinks, which are popular among teenagers. Pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks will be excluded and the smallest producers will have an exemption from the scheme.

The tax will be imposed on companies according to the volume of the sugar-sweetened drinks they produce or import. There will be two bands—one for total sugar content above 5g per 100 milliliters, and a second, higher band for the sugariest drinks with more than 8g per 100 milliliters. The types of drinks that would fall under the higher rate of the sugar tax include full-strength Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The lower rate would catch drinks such as Dr Pepper, Fanta, Sprite and Schweppes Indian tonic water.

Coca Cola and other soft drink manufactures have said that the Chancellor’s new levy will not reduce obesity because there is no evidence to suggest that this will reduce obesity. Data from some countries that have tried a sugar tax suggests it does have an impact at the bottom line; in Mexico, a tax led to a six per cent drop in purchases.

More than 350 products sold by major retailers will be affected by the levy, according to Mysupermarket.co.uk, the price comparison site. Chancellor Osborne has stated that the money raised from this tax—an estimated £520m a year—will be spent on increasing the funding for sport in primary schools. Research shows that half of seven-year-olds do not do enough exercise, and at the start of primary school, one in 10 children in England is very overweight—by the end, it is one in five. There are fears this statistic could rise, as of now, 29 percent of people in the U.K are obese; trends suggest that figure will reach 34 percent in 2025.

The World Health Organisation has described obesity as one of the most serious public health challenges for the 21st Century. It is a global problem, steadily affecting many low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. At the Sixty-third World Health Assembly in May 2010, WHO endorsed a set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, urging Member States to take action at national level and to cooperate to put in place the means necessary to reduce the impact of cross-border marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or salt.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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