The results are in, and it turns out taxes on sugary drinks are working to reduce sugar consumption, says Simon Stevens, head of the NHS. Stevens is now urging prime minister Boris Johnson to extend the tax to other sugary products to reduce dental problems, obesity and diabetes.
The number of people across the globe living with obesity has tripled in the past 40 years – most prominently in the middle to low-income areas. Strikingly, in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, and 650 million of these people were deemed obese. Even more shocking was the 40 million overweight children, under the age of five.
The sad situation we find ourselves in is one where we have an excess of foodstuffs, yet not enough nutritional value. Cheaply made, processed foods meet the demands of low-income households, but unfortunately not their dietary needs.
Similar ‘snack taxes’ have worked in 28 countries and 12 cities, with marked success. Norway first implemented these health-promoting taxes in 1981, and since then many have followed suit. However, the World Health Organisation is crying out for more to be done and quickly.
However, it’s not a black and white situation
In a counter-argument, the Food & Beverages sector explains that obesity is somewhat down to the individual’s responsibility, and a boost in access to education and exercise is what our society needs, rather than higher taxes on already stretched family budgets.
Moreover, with taxation classed as regressive, meaning it hurts those on lower incomes more than anyone, a higher sugar tax could result in job losses, decrease in profits and eventually a negative impact on our economy.
In the meantime, the Food and Drink Federation is working hard to smash the 20% sugar reduction by 2020. It is already retailing ONE TRILLION fewer calories than in 2015 and 57.3 million fewer kilograms of sugar. The Federation is desperately seeking government help to support them in their hard work, rather than potentially hinder it with ‘punitive measures’ in the form of ‘sin taxes’.
Boris Johnson, during his Tory leadership campaign, said;
“The recent proposal for a tax on milkshakes seems to me to clobber those who can least afford it. If we want people to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles, we should encourage people to walk, cycle and generally do more exercise. Rather than just taxing people more, we should look at how effective the so-called ‘sin taxes’ really are, and if they actually change behaviour,”.
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