The United Kingdom joins the sugar tax club – over a dozen countries down, still a long way to go

02 May 2018 Sugar

The United Kingdom is the most recent country to adopt a ‘sugar tax’ in an effort to tackle childhood obesity. In England alone, a third of children are obese or overweight when they leave primary school, and evidence shows that 80% of kids who are obese in their early teens will go on to be obese adults.

A sweet day for health advocates

The Soft Drinks Industry Levy, commonly referred to as the sugar tax, came into force on 6 April and is aimed at high-sugar drinks, particularly fizzy drinks, which are popular among teenagers.

"Our teenagers consume nearly a bathtub of sugary drinks each year on average, fuelling a worrying obesity trend in this country. The Soft Drinks Industry Levy is ground-breaking policy that will help to reduce sugar intake, whilst funding sports programmes and nutritious breakfast clubs for children."
Steve Brine, UK Public Health Minister

The tax affects any sugary drink that contain more than 5g of sugar per 100ml. Manufacturers will have to pay 18p (5g or more) or 24p (8g or more) extra per litre depending on how much extra sugar has been added to the drink.

Manufacturers can reformulate their drinks to reduce the sugar content, which can reduce or fully remove the liability to the tax. Since it was announced in March 2016, the tax has already resulted in over half of manufacturers reducing the sugar content of drinks – the equivalent of 45 million kg of sugar every year.

A rising global trend

The UK joins over a dozen other countries who have already adopted a sugar tax, among them: Chile, Barbados, Dominica, France, Hungary, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, certain cities in the United States, and Ireland who is set to introduce a similar tax in 2018.

FDI welcomes the introduction of a sugar tax in all countries as sugar is a leading risk factor for dental caries (tooth decay). Reducing sugar consumption will have a significant impact on helping to curb the global epidemic of dental caries, which has been widely neglected compared to other health issues.

Dental caries is the most common chronic disease in the world – due to exposure to sugar and other risks – and is a major global public health problem affecting individuals, health systems and economies. The fact that obesity – and not dental caries – is the main health reason for enforcing such a tax shows that governments still need convincing on the detrimental effects of sugar consumption on oral health. While this is a step in the right direction, continued action is needed to increase the number of countries belonging to the sugar tax club.

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