The Government will introduce a ‘sugar tax’ on sweetened soft drinks from 2018 in a bid to curb the childhood obesity epidemic.
In today’s budget announcement chancellor George Osborne revealed a range of measures that will impact on public health, most significantly the new levy, which will be invested in primary and secondary school sports.
The tax will have two tiers and be applied to manufacturers of the drinks – one for drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml, and a higher rate for those with more than 8g per 100ml.
The BMA said the new levy was a ‘welcome step forward’ but criticised the decision to delay its implementation for two years.
Mr Osborne said the delay would ‘give companies plenty of space to change their product mix’, adding that small producers, pure fruit juice and milk-based drinks would be exempted.
He said: ‘There will be two bands, one for total sugar content above 5g per 100ml, a second higher band for the most sugary drinks containing more than 8g per 100ml.
‘We as Conservatives understand that tax affects behaviour, so let’s tax the things we want to reduce, not the things we want to encourage.
‘We’re going to use the money from this levy to double the amount of money we dedicate to sport in every primary school. In secondary schools we’re going to fund longer school days for those who want to offer their pupils a wider range of activities, including extra sport.’
Other public health measures announced in the budget include a 2% increase in excise duty on tobacco products, but there is a freeze on beer, cider and spirit duties.
Pulse recently revealed that seven out of 10 GPs would support a tax on sugar in soft drinks.
Baroness Shelia Hollins, BMA board of science chair, said more needed to be done, including the implemention of minimum price per unit for alcohol, but welcomed the sugar tax.
She said: ‘This is an important initiative that could help to begin to address the obesity crisis amongst young children, although the delay in introducing it for two years is disappointing.’
Meanwhile, BMA chair Dr Mark Porter condemned the lack of new investment in NHS services in the budget as ‘disgraceful’.
Dr Porter said: ‘The political rhetoric does not match the reality on the ground of an NHS in crisis. The Government’s funding promises have simply not materialised.’