April 29th 2021
How the UK’s new sugar tax will affect you
April 7th 2018 / 0 comment
The sugar tax on soft drinks has now come into effect, but which drinks are affected and is it likely to decrease obesity levels? Here’s the lowdown on the new levies
A sugar tax has been on the cards for what seems years, but it’s finally been put into effect this week, with manufacturers having to pay a levy on the high-sugar drinks that they sell. The UK joins the likes of Mexico, Norway and France who have also introduced similar taxes.
It’s believed that the tax will raise more than £240m in funds, which will be invested in school sports and breakfasts clubs to encourage healthier habits in the young and tackle the growing obesity epidemic. It’s hoped that the tax will help improve children’s oral health too.
How does the new tax work and what does it mean for you? Here are its key takeaways.
The tax is likely to make sugary drinks more expensive
Although applied to manufacturers, the decision of whether the taxes will be passed on to consumers is up to them. Chances are though that they will be and as a result, the prices of the drinks affected will rise. The cost of a 330ml can of Coca-Cola for example has gone up by 8p, a 500ml bottle by 12p and a two-litre bottle by 48p. This could also increase their prices in pubs and restaurants too.
Some drinks will be pricier than others
The taxes applied will depend on the amount of added sugar each beverage has. Drinks with higher levels of sugar in them will be taxed at higher amounts. Those with 8g per 100ml will face a tax rate of 24p per litre. Those with 5-8g of sugar per 100ml will face a tax of 18p per litre.
Not all soft drinks are included
Pure fruit juices and drinks with high levels of milk (75 per cent) are exempt from the tax. The reason given for the former is because they do not carry added sugar and the latter because of their calcium content. The drinks most affected are of the fizzy kind such as Pepsi, Red Bull, 7Up and Coca-Cola.
Will it work?
The sugar tax seems a positive step in the right direction for helping households reduce their sugar intake. Some big brands have already reduced the amount of sugar in their products ahead of it taking effect (hitting the worst culprits in their wallets appears to be a somewhat effective approach). The likes of Lucozade, Ribena and Irn-Bru have changed their recipes so that they fall outside of the taxable thresholds. However Pepsi and Coca-Cola are yet to follow suit, containing 11g and 10.6g of sugar per 100ml respectively.
Some people have said that it’s too soon to judge its impact. It’s also worth noting that drinks like Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and Diet Coke wouldn’t be affected by the levy. However, due to their high levels of artificial sweeteners and additives, they’re not necessarily always the ‘healthier’ option. And shouldn’t be viewed as such under the new regulations. There’s also intriguing research to suggest that carbonated drinks can lead to spikes in appetite, leading us to seek out extra calories from elsewhere. And while pure fruit juices don’t fall under the new rules either, they do contain high levels of sugar and fruit acids which can still be detrimental to dental health if guzzled down.
Sceptics are also unsure as to whether making sugary drinks more expensive will make a sizeable reduction to the number of consumers buying them. According to a 2,000 person survey conducted by Mintel for example, just under half stated that taxing unhealthy products would encourage them to reduce their intake. However, three-quarters said that they were more likely to revise their shopping habits if they were presented with more easily digestible nutritional information by contrast.
That being said though, Mexico, who rolled out similar rules in 2014, saw a 12 per cent decrease in sugary drink consumption a year after it was introduced, with the biggest reductions seen in poorer households. More time is needed though to see if it’s made a similarly large dent in obesity levels.
The reasons behind the obesity crisis are wide-ranging. From stress to the prevalence of sedentary lifestyles and high sugar foods, there are several pieces to solving this particularly complex puzzle. Hopefully some of the funds will also be put into education too to help instil healthy habits in the young from an early age. However, considering that manufacturers are already starting to implement changes, it appears to be an encouraging first step. Only time will tell if it makes a long-lasting impact on the nation’s health.