Britain will impose a new sugar tax on soft drinks in two years’ time to fight childhood obesity, UK Treasury chief announced today in his annual Budget speech that also included public spending cuts of billions of pounds. “I can announce that we will introduce a new sugar levy on the soft drinks industry. We all know one of the biggest contributors to childhood obesity is sugary drinks,” UK Chancellor George Osborne said, adding, the new levy will be based on the levels of sugar in the drinks, with the most sugary drinks paying the highest tax.
The move is estimated to bring the UK government an extra 520 million pounds a year, to be spent on doubling funding for sport in primary schools. “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’. So today, I can announce that we will introduce a new sugar levy on the soft drinks industry,” Osborne said in the House of Commons.
Britain has one of the worst obesity rates in Europe and official data from last year showed 61.9 per cent of adults and 28 per cent of children aged between two and 15 are overweight or obese. The levy will be imposed directly on soft drinks producers, rather than on consumers, and will come in force in two year’s time in order to give companies time to change the ingredients of their products.
“It will come into force in two years, based on the volume of sugar, two bands: those with 5g per 100ml and those with more than 8g per 100ml, pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks excluded,” he said. The two tiers of taxes mean that a few soft drinks such as Tango Orange and Lilt will be exempt, because their sugar content is below 5g per 100ml.
A number of drinks, including Fanta and Sprite, will be hit by a new tax, for those with between 5g and 8g added sugar per 100ml. But the highest tax will hit popular fizzy drinks such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola and 7up. A number of Royal Colleges in the UK have called for a tax, and British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver also led a campaign for such levies to be introduced.
Among some of the other Budget announcements, the UK Chancellor cut the country’s growth forecasts for the next five years and announced 3.5 billion pounds in public spending cuts by 2020. Tax on cigarettes will rise by 2 per cent, with 3 per cent on rolling tobacco but beer and cider duty will be frozen as will the levy on whisky and other spirits. The rate at which workers start paying top rate tax is to be raised from 42,385 pounds to 45,000 pounds, with corporation tax to be cut to 17 per cent by April 2020.