1. News
April 26, 2017

UK sugar tax will be introduced in April 2018 as part of obesity reduction push

The sugar tax will come into force across the UK from April next year, after MPs approved the legislation yesterday.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates the soft drinks levy could add between 18p to 24p to the price of a litre of fizzy drink if the full cost is passed on to the consumer.

This amounts to an extra 6p on a regular can of Fanta and Sprite, and an extra 8p on a regular can of Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Irn-Bru.

Former chancellor George Osborne announced the levy in 2016 to combat obesity and tooth decay.

“We are delighted to hear today’s news that Parliament has approved the sugar tax levy, despite fears last week that it may be shelved until after the general election,” Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar told Verdict.

“We now have the guarantee that the levy will be in place before the next government is formed. This coincides with news that Coco Cola could face a £200m sugar tax from their Classic product alone if it doesn’t step up efforts to significantly reduce sugar content. This tax must act as a key deterrent to ensure all drink manufacturers reformulate with immediate effect,” he added.

Other health campaigners applauded parliament’s decision.

“This sugar tax will help improve the lives of children all over the UK,” said Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention. “Kids are gulping down more sugar from fizzy drinks than from anything else.”

One in three children in the UK are overweight or obese by the time they finish primary school.

However, critics of the sugar tax insist that the imminent policy change will see the country’s poorest families struggle the most.

“Caving in to the high priests of the nanny state by slapping taxes on random products will only hit the poorest hardest without achieving the desired results,” said John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a UK-based grassroots organisation campaigning for lower taxes.

He added that the government should focus on the socio-economic factors at work across the country, instead of relying on punitive taxes.

“Lasting change in people’s diets will only happen via a long-term cultural shift.”