Yesterday, the chancellor announced his Budget for 2016, along with a surprising twist in the form of a soft drink sugar tax which will be introduced in the UK.
What’s it all about?
The tax is aimed at high-sugar drinks, particularly fizzy drinks, and will be applied to companies based on the volume of sugar in the drinks they produce.
Drinks with a total sugar content over 5g per 100 millilitres will incur an 18p per litre levy. Examples include full-fat Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Lucozade Energy, Red Bull and Irn-Bru.
Those with more than 8g per 100 millilitres will pay 24p per litre. These include Dr. Pepper, Sprite and Schweppes Indian Tonic Water.
Pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks will be excluded.
Take into account that soft-drink cans hold 330ml, drinks could be up to 8p more expensive per can, a small bottle would be 12p more and 1.75-litre bottles could cost an additional 40p.
Unlike chocolate, sweets and snacks, sugary drinks aren’t seen as a ‘treat’. We drink them because we’re thirsty, when we’re socialising, or even to accompany a meal.
The amount of sugar contained in some of these drinks can take an adult over their recommended sugar intake in one hit. Take for example:
Sugar in a 330ml can of Coca-Cola (7 teaspoons)
The recommended maximum amount of sugar per day for those aged 11+
Teenagers currently get the majority of their sugar intake from fizzy drinks. Not only are these drinks chock-full of sugar, but they contain no other nutritional value. These ’empty calories’ are simply extra energy that today’s sedentary teens are failing to burn off. Bring on the bulge.
What will it achieve?
The government hopes that manufacturers will take this as an incentive to cut the amount of sugar in their drinks. Savvy shoppers won’t be as keen to shell out the extra dough for their usual fizzy favourites. The country’s obesity crisis also disproportionately affects the poorest. A study of 20,000 British families, found a stark link between poverty and childhood obesity.* By the age of just five, poor children were almost doubly likely to be obese than their better off peers.
So, if companies intend to keep their sales figures up, they’ll reduce the sugar in order to keep their costs down.
Campaigners have been battling for some time for the tax on sugar, including Jamie Oliver, who introduced a sugar levy in his restaurants. His e-petition had more than 150,000 signatures of support. He said on Instagram:
“A profound move that will ripple around the world…
Business can not come between our kids health !! Our kids health comes first.”
Mr Osborne said the money raised (around £520m a year) will be spent on increasing the funding for sport in primary schools.
*Findings from the Millenium Cohort Study.