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Seven out of ten GPs back a sugar tax

Exclusive More than two-thirds of GPs believe that the Government should implement a sugar tax, an exclusive Pulse survey has revealed.

The survey of 878 GPs found that 67% supported a new tax, with many warning that people were unaware about the damage sugary products do to their health. Just 25% said they were opposed to such a move.

The results represent a significant shift from a similar Pulse survey in July 2014, when 52% of the 492 GPs surveyed said they supported a tax, compared with 40% opposed.

The findings come as there has been growing clamour for a tax on sugary products. 

Last month, Public Health England urged ministers to introduce a sugar tax in its review on tackling the obesity epidemic. The publication of the review had been delayed, which led to the chair of the Commons Health Committee accusing the Government of suppressing evidence and double standards over transparency

In July the BMA called for a 20% tax on sugary drinks, which they said could benefit 180,000 people.

GPs responding to Pulse’s survey said that a sugar tax will help raise awareness about how unhealthy sugar in processed foods was.

Essex GP Dr Alice Hodkinson said: ‘People do not realise how much sugar is in the food they eat, particularly savoury food, and I would want to use the tax system to encourage people to eat less sugar and eat more fruit and veg. Ideally, I would plough the money back into making fruit and veg cheaper.’

Dr Hema Gore, a GP in Blackburn, said: ‘Sugar is addictive, toxic and it predisposes people to metabolic dysfunction, causes fatty infiltration of liver, increases diabetes, obesity and tooth decay.

‘A higher tax on sugar will definitely reduce these problems.’

However, some respondents said there were better solutions for the obesity epidemic.

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Dr Steve Lumb, a GP partner in the Durham Dales, said: ‘Better education on diet via the media, schools, health visitors, etc along with better labelling of foods would make more sense. I also agree with banning advertising of certain foods and drinks.’

The deputy chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, Dr Richard Vautrey, said: ’The BMA has been campaigning for a sugar tax and we welcome the increased focus on this from Public Health England and through the Commons Health Committee.

’There is an urgent need to tackle the amount of hidden sugar in our diets which is a significant factor in the obesity crisis.’

Survey results in full

Do you support a tax on food with a high sugar content?

Yes: 593 (67%)

No: 216 (25%)

Don’t know: 69 (8%)

Total number of respondents: 878

The survey was launched on 26 October 2015, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 20 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize drawer for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey. A total of 878 GPs answered this question.




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