Published on 17 March 2016

The Government has issued a crackdown on the effect of soft drinks on the nation’s health by announcing a sugar tax in their 2016 Budget announcement.

The tax on the sugar content of soft drinks was one of the surprise features unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne and around £530 million could be raised - the equivalent of around 18-24p per litre.

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.

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 NHS recommends that the daily maximum intake of sugar for people aged over 11 is 30g, and yet a 333ml can of Coca-Cola contains 30g - the equivalent of seven teaspoons

The sugar tax will be introduced in two years’ time and will not apply to fruit juices or milk-based drinks.

Mr Osborne said: “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’.”

The tax will be imposed on the volume of the sugar-sweetened drinks companies produce or import and could result in a “pretty substantial price rise” on products, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, who said the tax could be as much as 80% on, for example, a two-litre bottle of own-brand cola.

There will be two bands - one for total sugar content above 5 grams per 100 millilitres; a second, higher band for the most sugary drinks with more than 8 grams per 100 millilitres, with the levels yet to be set.

The Treasury said drinks that fall under the higher rate of the sugar tax include full-strength Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Lucozade Energy and Irn-Bru,. The lower rate would catch drinks such as Dr Pepper, Fanta, Sprite, Schweppes Indian tonic water and alcohol-free shandy.

Professors Kamlesh Khunti and Melanie Davies CBE, both from the University of Leicester and the Leicester Diabetes Centre, have backed the move to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity in the UK.

Professor Khunti, Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine, said: “We welcome the government’s recognition of this important issue, it’s time to get tough on sugar.

“Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition linked to lifestyle, which if not managed properly, can lead to devastating complications, including blindness, amputations, stroke and heart disease. Mexico has already introduced sugar tax and positive impact of this was seen within one year.”

Professor Davies CBE, Professor of Diabetes Medicine, added: “We see first-hand the consequences of excessive sugar consumption and believe it’s about time a stand against brands such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi is taken.

“More and more people are developing type 2 diabetes at a much younger age with cases even seen in children and young people. Excessive sugar consumption is one of the factors that contributes to obesity levels particularly in youngsters.”

Following the sugar tax announcement a big fall in the share price of soft drinks makers was reported.

A tax on sugary drinks has long been called for by the likes of campaign group Action on Sugar and TV chef Jamie Oliver, who said the tax was a “big moment in child health”.

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