Soft Drink Tax

Professor Mike Rayner, Dr Pete Scarborough and their team in the British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention modelled the effect of a 20% tax on sugary soft drinks in the UK, finding a distinct reduction in rates of obesity, particularly among young people.

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The number of obese adults in the UK could be reduced by 180,000 with a 20% tax on sugary drinks, say researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of Reading. The tax could raise over £275 million for the Treasury.

The researchers from the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at the University of Oxford and the Centre for Food Security at the University of Reading have published their findings in the British Medical Journal.

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A number of journal articles have recently been published by members of our Food Research Network on the topic of nutrition and obesity.

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Mike Rayner, Director of the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, was quoted in the Guardian on Saturday in an article about sugar, obesity, and the pros and cons of a tax on sugary foods and drinks.

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A report has just been released on the health impacts of a proposed 10% tax on sugary drinks in Ireland.

The working group who produced this report, commissioned by the Irish Minister for Health, had the expertise of Mike Rayner and his team from Oxford University who carried out modelling work on the financial tax implication for Ireland.

Conclusions based on evidence presented by the HIA process:

  • Obesity is multifaceted with many factors influencing the basic drivers of energy intake and energy expenditure including environment, socio-economic, psycho-social and genetic factors.
  • Sugar Sweetened Drinks (SSDs) are a source of energy intake with little or no other nutrient contribution to the diet.
  • Price increases tend to decrease demand by the degree to which this happens is variable because consumer behaviour and industry response to a tax is difficult to predict.
  • There is evidence linking Sugar Sweetened Drinks consumption with increases in energy intake.
  • The evidence linking Sugar Sweetened Drinks consumption with weight gain is suggestive but not conclusive.

The Working Group were broadly of the view that there was evidence to suggest that SSDs are associated with weight gain and that an SSD levy should not be seen as a revenue generating issue but rather a measure to change behaviour. They agreed that if this tax were implemented there would be a need for good monitoring and evaluation.

Read the entire report here

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