The NHS is set to take a lead on public health and ban or impose a tax on sugary drinks sold in hospitals.
Chief executive Simon Stevens has stated his desire to set a healthy example for the rest of society.
Trials are planned for four NHS hospitals, with the intention of floating the policy.
England would be the first country in the world to take such action, should the plan go ahead.
The consultation will runs until 18th January next year.
Drinks affected by the potential initiative would be any with added sugar, including fruit juices, sweetened milk-based drinks and sweetened coffees.
The soft drinks industry has naturally responded strongly to this suggestion.
Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, commented that “it’s hard to see how a ban on soft drinks can be justified given that the sector has led the way in reducing consumers’ sugar intake”.
It is believed that a 20% tax on sugary drinks would raies int the region of £30 million annually.
The authorities state that revenue would then be reinveted in patient charities and “health and wellbeing programmes” to help keep the NHS’s 1.3 million employees fit.
During recent trials, one hospital that banned sugary drinks found the overall total number of drinks sold did not decrease, meaning vendors were financially unaffected.
Stevens suggested that the move could have a positive impact on diabetes and the dental health of children.
“Confronted by rising obesity, type 2 diabetes and child dental decay, it’s time for the NHS to practise what we preach. By ploughing the proceeds of any vendor fees back into staff health and patient charities these proposals are a genuine win-win opportunity to both improve health and cut future illness cost burdens for the NHS.”
Health charities welcomed the idea, unlike the soft drinks industry.
The aforementioned Partington continued with his arguments against the move.
“Sugar intake is down by over 17% since 2012. In 2015 we also became the only category to set a calorie reduction target of 20% by 2020. Given that the government is looking to introduce a soft drinks tax in 2018 it seems slightly odd that another public body wishes to duplicate this process.”
A sugar tax was previously repealed in Denmark after it failed to have a significantly positive impact.
The Danish government estimated that it was losing €38.9 million in VAT annually from illegal soft drink sales.
After 15 months the tax was abandoned, following surveys which suggested that only 7% of Danes had reduced their fat intake.
The tax was, however, blamed for 1,300 lost jobs as Danish shoppers crossed to Germany or Sweden.