A new report on using taxation to control obesity pits the UK government against soft drinks companies.
The report by the Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum predicts that a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks in the UK would prevent 3.7 million people becoming obese over the next decade. The report adds that such a tax would also save the NHS £10 million a year by 2025.
The government is considering the measure which is predicted to have a significant impact on the consumption habits and waistlines of the people as well as the fortunes of companies producing sugary drinks and foods.
Alison Cox of the Cancer Research UK, said: “The ripple effect of a small tax on sugary drinks is enormous. These numbers make it clear why we need to act now before obesity becomes an even greater problem.”
Jane Landon, Health Forum UK, also said that “Countries which have introduced a tax on sugary drinks have not only reduced consumption, they have raised much-needed revenues for public health measures.”
There are indications that the UK government may consider the new report as it prepares for its obesity strategy to be unveiled in the next few weeks. A report by Public Health England said a sugary drinks tax would cut sugar consumption at the short term.
Currently, 29 per cent of Britons are said to be obese and trends suggest that figure may reach 34 per cent in 2025 if nothing is done to curb the trend.
However, companies producing soft drinks are against this move, insisting that other options would be more effective in controlling obesity. Gavin Partington, Director-General, British Soft Drinks Association, faulted they hypothetical claims made in the study, arguing that it runs contrary to real-world evidence.
“In fact, the soft drinks tax in Mexico has reduced average calorie intake by six calories per person per day, with no evidence that it has reduced levels of obesity,” he said adding that other options such as reducing portion sizes or changing ingredients would be more effective.
CONCERNS ABOUT SUGAR
• There has been growing concern about the damaging impact of sugar on health – from the state of people’s teeth to type-2 diabetes and obesity
• Sugar has been dubbed “empty calories” because it has no nutritional benefit
• Government advisers recommend no more than 5% of daily calories should come from sugar
• That is about 1oz (25g; six or seven teaspoons) for an adult of normal weight every day. For children, it is slightly less
• The limits apply to all sugars added to food, as well as sugar naturally present in syrups and honey
• To put this in context, a typical can of fizzy drink contains about nine teaspoons of sugar