United Kingdom’s Sugar Tax

The U.K. finance minister George Osborne announced on March 16th a plan to introduce a tax on sugary drinks.  Under the proposed levy, companies would be taxed according to the volume of sugar in the beverages they produce or import and the proceeds would be used to fund school sports, child nutrition programs and education.  Fruit juices, smoothies and milk-based drinks are exempt from the planned tax. 

Health advocates campaigned for years asking for the government to institute a sugary drinks tax and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s petition to the government garnered more than 150,000 supporters.  The plan received praise from those in the public health community as a step “in the right direction” but it is not considered a “silver bullet to solve obesity.”   It is expected to drive product reformulation and a government spokesman explained: “The new levy will not be introduced until 2018, giving companies plenty of time to change product mix and reduce sugar content."

In presenting the plan, 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'."


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