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Campaigners welcome dawn of sugar tax levy

Levy could prevent 19,000 cases of type 2 diabetes annually

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 05 April 2018

Campaigners are welcoming the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy – also known as the sugar tax – which comes into force tomorrow (6 April) in the UK.

Under the new arrangements, a manufacturer will have to pay 18p per litre on drinks that have a total sugar content of more than 5g and less than 8g per 100ml, and pay 24p per litre on drinks that have a total sugar content of 8g or more per 100ml.

The policy is intended to encourage people to reduce their consumption of drinks with added sugar, thus cutting their excess sugar consumption which is associated with obesity and excess weight, leading to a higher risk of developing various serious health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

The charity Diabetes UK’s director of policy, campaigns and improvement Bridget Turner said: “Evidence shows that this levy has the potential to prevent obesity in up to 140,000 adults and children each year and, in turn, prevent nearly 19,000 cases of type 2 diabetes. We’ve long supported this policy, and welcome it coming into force.

“However, it is important to note that many people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes use high sugar products to treat hypos – reformulation and price increases will both have an impact on this. People with diabetes who use sugary drinks to treat hypos should be sure to read the labels to check the sugar content.

“That said, there are clear health benefits to the whole population if we are all able to reduce the amount of free sugar in our diet. This policy will go some way to helping make this possible.”

The BMA welcomed what it described as the ‘long overdue’ soft drinks levy.

BMA board of science chair Professor Dame Parveen Kumar said: “The introduction of the levy tomorrow is a long overdue and crucial change that will go some way towards reducing the prevalence of obesity in the UK.

“Recent figures in 2016-17, from NHS Digital, show an 18% increase in obesity-related hospital admissions for complex conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, compared to the previous year. Furthermore, one in five year six pupils were considered obese last year.

“Consumers often don’t know the exact amount of sugar in the drinks they give their children or drink themselves. This levy will help ensure sugary drinks manufacturers act to reduce levels of sugar in their products.

“It is a sad fact that this soft drinks levy, enforceable from tomorrow, did not come much sooner, but there is a lot more we can do to tackle the rising prevalence of obesity. Tougher rules on junk food marketing aimed at children would begin to create a healthier environment for all.”

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