In a surprise announcement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has announced a sugar tax as part of the 2016 budget.
Soft drinks manufacturers will be taxed according to the volume of the sugar-sweetened drinks they produce or import.
Drinks will be separated into two categories depending on the amount of sugar content that is contained within them.
Already evidence provided by the BBC indicates that the majority of soft drinks will fall into the higher band of the two.
The first taxation group will be for drinks with a total sugar content above 5g per 100ml, and a second higher band will address the most sugary drinks with more than 8g per 100ml.
It had been widely expected that Osborne would delay a decision on this sugar tax, but the Government spoke of the obesity epidemic when announcing the decision.
The tax will come into force in two years’ time in order to give companies time to change the ingredients of their products.
It is estimated that this new taxation will raise over £500 million annually, with investment being made in doubling funding from sport in primary schools.
Osborne particularly cited the fact that five year-olds are consuming their bodyweight in sugar every year on average.
It is also believed that within a single generation more than half of all boys could be overweight or obese, with the figure being a startling 70% for girls.
“I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation ‘I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing’,” Osborne stated.
Commenting on the issue, Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, welcomed the sugar taxation, suggesting that it could play a role in positive health outcomes for young people in particular.
“This is a really important victory for children’s health. Not only will this tax on sugary drinks encourage people to shift towards healthier drinks, but it sends out a wider message about our need to cut down on sugar, and for businesses to reduce the sugar in their products. The Chancellor has taken a bold step in what we hope will be a key pillar of the Government’s forthcoming Childhood Obesity Strategy.”
But Clark also suggested that the taxation should be considered but a single pillar in a broader UK strategy.
“On its own, a sugary drinks tax won’t solve the UK’s childhood obesity crisis, which is why it needs to be coupled with robust restrictions on unhealthy food marketing online and across all forms of media, including a 9pm watershed for TV advertising of junk food, alongside a series of other measures on reformulation, labelling and the provision of healthier, more sustainable food in our communities.”
Although the level of obesity in the UK is not seriously challenged, many people nonetheless suppose the sugar tax for several reasons.
It is asserted by critics that it will have little influence over the level of sugar being consumed and offers little more than a revenue generation mechanism, and libertarians believe that it goes against basic freedom of choice.
Denmark introduced a sugar tax in 2011, before repealing it due to its ineffectiveness just one year later.