Published on 12 December 2016

The Government has announced more details of their plans to introduce a “sugar tax” in a bid to tackle the growing obesity problem.

The recently published draft legislation of the soft drink industry levy included plans for the tax to be introduced in April 2018, giving sellers of soft drinks time to reduce sugar in their products.

The sugar tax – a Government crackdown on the effect of soft drinks on the nation’s health – was announced in their 2016 Budget announcement earlier this year.

Some of the money raised from the sugar tax will be spent on sports in primary schools

The tax could help improve the health of young people in the future by reducing their daily intake of sugar and prevent obesity and related health problems like type 2 diabetes.

The Government paper said: “This is a levy on importers and producers of beverages that contain added sugar to help tackle childhood obesity. The two thresholds, at 5g and 8g of sugar per 100ml have been designed so that, by taking reasonable steps to reduce sugar content, UK producers and importers of soft drinks can pay less or escape the charge altogether. The levy will take effect from April 2018.

“There will be an exemption for the smallest operators and a credit against levy liability, subject to evidence, for liable drinks that are exported.”

It is estimated that around £530 million could be raised - the equivalent of around 18-24p per litre of soft drink.

The Government said money raised from the tax will be spent on primary school sports in England, with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland free to decide how to spend their share.

Dr Max Davie, Assistant Officer for Health Promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: “After years of campaigning we are very pleased to see Government moving forward with this draft legislation.

“The sugary drinks that will be affected by this tax have no nutritional benefit and often contain levels of sugar that are above a child’s daily recommended limit. These drinks are a major contributor to the high sugar intakes of children, particularly teenagers, and we are in no doubt that they are, in part, contributing to this country’s obesity crisis.

“We hope that drinks manufacturers use today's draft legislation as a spring board to show their commitment to improve child health and voluntarily reformulate their sugar sweetened soft drinks ahead of the policy passing into law. By doing so they will help thousands of vulnerable children and young people and will be going some way to protecting the future health of our nation.”

Professor Mark Hanson, British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiovascular Science at the University of Southampton, said: “Hopefully the plans to put a levy on sugar in fizzy drinks will reduce consumption too, but this will depend on industry engaging positively with the agenda. There is no single approach which will reduce levels of obesity, so we should not expect this to do so on its own; but it could be part of a holistic approach and do much to raise awareness of the problem.”

Dr Amelia Lake, Dietitian and Public Health Nutritionist at Durham University, said: “This is an important step forward and complies with WHO recommendations. Obesity is a complex problem. 

A sugar tax may not be the magic bullet to address our obesity problem; however, it is one piece of a large complex jigsaw and an important piece at that!”

Soft Drinks Industry Levy: 12 things you should know
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