Sugar Tax – Solution or More Problems?

Over the years, we have seen a growing problem with obesity and this is a fact that cannot be denied. In the past twenty years alone, obesity has become more prevalent with figures rising from around 15% to 25%. With that in mind, it means that a quarter of all people over the age of 16 are now obese and this has led to huge health issues. Recently, the government announced the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL), nicknamed the “sugar tax”, which they believe to be part of a solution. But will this really be as impactful as they believe?

At the time, chancellor George Osbourne noted how it would be fizzy drinks that received the burden of the tax which raised more questions than it answered. Although Osbourne stated that it would be measured by how much sugar the drinks contained, it still raised the question why chocolate, sweets, and other sugary products were avoiding the tax as these can be just as harmful to health. Furthermore, there are also blurred lines between categories such as dissolvable powders and candy sprays; do these count?

Since the announcement in March, even leading health experts have criticised the tax saying that the target is simply too narrow with too many exemptions. In addition to this, there are serious concerns that the sugar tax will only impact the consumer. If producers do not feel the need to lower the amount of sugar in their drinks, the burden will fall to the consumer and the intention for the tax would have failed.

Digging deeper, we can see that figures for tax aren’t actually mentioned at all. Although the three different tax groups have been set depending on the amount of sugar, the HMRC project £500m a year from revenue but nobody is aware of the penalties for the three bands. Moreover, the HMRC has also failed to point out the revenue that will be lost in terms of imports. If drinks become too expensive at home, people all across Britain will begin to import drinks from cheaper countries.

What is the Solution?

With all this in mind, we have discussed various reasons why this won’t work and why experts are opposed. However, what should be done? As mentioned previously, obesity is a growing problem so we do need to take action. According to experts, calories should be taxed as opposed to individual nutrients. Ultimately, it is the calories that add weight to a body so many believe that this is the best way to control the problem. Furthermore, taxing sugar as a whole could work as opposed to one small niche of where sugar lies. Finally, some have even gone as far as to say that we should tax the product sectors that are causing the problem – confectionary, bakery, and more. However, this then leads to the problems of how to measure their contribution to the problem.

All in all, it is a tricky topic and the debate is set to continue in the months and years ahead. With the recent decision to leave the EU, the process could soon speed up and we could see updates in the coming months.

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