Nations around the world have been looking for ways to curb childhood obesity for more than a decade. Now, the UK has taken an enormous step towards this goal by imposing a tax on all sugary drinks.
According to The Guardian, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has announced the UK’s plan to place a substantial tax on sugary soft drinks, starting in April 2018.
The new tax is intended to combat the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in the UK, which is more problematic than anywhere else in the world. Additionally, it is expected to dramatically reduce the $7 billion per year burden that is placed on the National Health Service (NHS) by the disease.
Drinks that will be affected by the forthcoming tax include Red Bull, Capri Sun, and several versions of soda. While no definitive tax amount has been determined as of yet, health campaigners are pushing for a 20% increase for the price of these drinks.
“One of the biggest contributors to childhood obesity is sugary drinks. A can of cola typically has nine teaspoons of sugar in it. Some popular drinks have as many as 13. That can be more than double a child’s recommended [daily] added sugar intake,” said Chancellor Osborne.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, believes that the sugar tax “will send a powerful signal and incentivize soft drinks companies to act on the health consequences of their products.”
“While no child needs a daily dose of sugary fizzy water, sadly soft drinks are now our children’s largest single source of diabetes-inducing, teeth-rotting excess sugar,” Stevens added.
Dentists have also joined the fight against sugary drinks as new research indicates that these beverages can severely impact a child’s oral health. Recently, researchers found that exposure to energy drinks such as Rockstar and Red Bull resulted in twice as much enamel loss compared to sports drinks such as Gatorade and Propel.
Regardless of which sugary drinks a child chooses, it’s been made abundantly clear that these drinks are not part of a healthy diet. This new tax imposed by Chancellor Osborne is particularly notable because of how dire childhood obesity has become throughout the entire UK.
According to The Irish Times, childhood obesity is the most widespread adolescent illness in Europe. In Ireland alone, approximately 22% of 5- to 12-year-old kids are considered overweight or obese.
Most health experts are praising the UK’s decision, noting that it is not the first country to put its foot down when it comes to childhood obesity. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, believes that this new tax is indicative of the UK’s forward-thinking approach to helping its people.
“A sugary drinks levy is fabulous news for children and families in helping them to cut back on sugar. This will reduce the risks of obesity, tooth decay and other life-threatening diseases. [It] is a stunning early indication of the government’s commitment to reducing child obesity,” Selbie said.
Though time will only tell if this tax does help to reduce childhood obesity in the UK, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.