UK Government sets out plans for sugar tax on soft drinks

Draft legislation published in the UK on Monday could increase the price of a can of fizzy drink by 8p.

The UK Government said that the levy will apply to the production and importation of soft drinks containing added sugar.

Its aim is to help reduce childhood obesity by removing added sugar from soft drinks. According to the Government, the levy encourages producers of added sugar soft drinks to reformulate their products to reduce the sugar content.

If they do this, producers will pay less or even escape the charge altogether.

There will be two bands — one for drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml and a higher rate for drinks with more than 8g per 100ml.

The tax will not apply to drinks where no sugar is added, which means that pure fruit juices and smoothies will be exempt.

Milkshake and yoghurt drinks will also be excluded because of concerns that teenagers, particularly girls, do not get enough calcium and so taxing these drinks might be counterproductive, BBC News reported.

The levy is planned to take effect from April 2018.

Figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility suggest that it will add 6p to 8p to the price of regular size cans and 18p to 24p to the price of a litre of fizzy drink.

The move has been welcomed by health campaigners, including the Obesity Health Alliance which said in a statement:

“We’re pleased to see the government move forward with the Soft Drinks Industry Levy which is a necessary measure to help decrease our sugar intake, and reduce the burden of obesity and its devastating health complications.

“Sugary soft drinks are currently the largest source of sugar for children, and this high sugar intake is driving the deadly obesity epidemic which costs our health service billions of pounds every year. Tackling obesity today will save money tomorrow.”

But Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: “There is no evidence worldwide that taxes of this sort reduce obesity, and it is ironic that soft drinks are being singled out for tax when we’ve led the way in reducing sugar intake, down over 17% since 2012.”