Sugar Tax: Solution or Scapegoat?

Sugar Tax

Nerve Online’s Imi Byers looks at whether George Osborne’s ‘Sugar Tax’ – announced in this week’s Budget – will be beneficial in the long run to the UK.

Edited by Rebecca Pates

Sugary drinks are bad for us. Fact. We know this and we’ve known this for a while. Yet we still manage to squeeze in the sugary fix with a sneaky bottle of coke or quick Lucozade boost on a daily basis.

George Osborne’s newly proposed sugar levy on soft drinks means that mega corporations will have to either alter the amount of sugar in their drinks to under 5g per 100ml or bump up their product to comply with new regulations. In other words: either different tasting drinks or 8p extra for a bottle of coke. These companies have two years to decide on a winning strategy until on April 2018 when the proposal will take place. No doubt the public will be eager to see what sort of tactics these companies will carve out.

Of course, sugar tax is arguably a good idea. Firstly, the estimated profits from this tax is £520 million and in England, this extra money is going to be spent on improving primary school sport. This ultimately kills two birds with one stone: less fizzy drinks + more bouncy balls at schools = healthy children + lower NHS costs. Statistics reveal this sugar tax couldn’t come soon enough. Obesity has reached an all-time high with one fifth of children leaving primary school obese and the NHS costs on tackling obesity alone at £5.1 billion/year and forecast to rise to £9.7 billion by 2050.  There is no denying that something needs to be done.

Will it work? This is another question entirely. If England are anything like Mexico then yes, it could work. The 10% sugar tax introduced there in 2014 caused a 12% reduction of fizzy drink consumption in the first year. However, tightly squeezed and hidden in the small print of this political movement is the fact that the sugar tax is exempt for milky drinks, fruit juices and diet varieties.

Sugar Tax on Apple Juice?

Healthy alternative or just as bad as fizzy drinks?

The children of today can still happily achieve their sugary fix through sophisticated chai lattes or hot chocolates.  Instead of Pepsi in their packed lunches, they will have apple juice – a much healthier alternative, right? Wrong, there is 65.8 g/L sugar in Minute Maid’s apple juice compared to the 62.5g per litre in Coke. Whilst there is no denying that apple juice is better nutritionally, as far as sugar is concerned there is no difference. When considering cutting down sugar in our hot milky beverages, does this mean they going to initiate a 10p charge for sugar sachets in coffee shops? The sugar tax won’t really be hitting the obesity problem from all angles.

Critics are quick to point out Jamie Oliver’s hypocrisy with his strong involvement in this movement, despite many of his recipes containing vast amounts of sugar. For example, his ‘chocolatey treat with fresh orange and cream’ contains 32.5g sugar per portion and his ‘holiday citrus slushie’ contains 23g. Is the difference only that Jamie’s sweet offerings are supposed to be consumed in moderation? There is also the fact that cheaper non-brand versions of these sugary drinks will benefit from the sugar tax with consumers more money-aware and changing from the brand to the next-best alternative.

It will be interesting to see how both the public and major drinks companies adjust to these new limitations and who knows – maybe Osborne has found the solution to the obesity crisis that has vivaciously inclined during the recent years.

For more information about the sugar tax, have a look at this brilliant BBC article. Is your favourite fizzy drink one of the worst in terms of sugar? Find out!

To find out what else was announced in this week’s Budget, a full, simple description is here.