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Sugar tax on soft drinks to be introduced in April 2018 to combat rising obesity

Sugar-filled soft drinks will see a tax hike in April 2018, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced, in an attempt to combat rising levels of obesity.

In his Budget, Philip Hammond announced details of the new sugar tax saying the money raised would go to the Department for Education (DfE) for school sports.

A tax on drinks with more than five grams of sugar per 100ml will be levied at 18p per litre, while those with eight grams or more of sugar per 100ml will have an extra tax of 24p per litre.

The controversial levy was first announced last March, when the Government announced it would target the producers and importers of soft drinks with added sugar.

Pure fruit juices will be exempt as they do not carry added sugar, while drinks with a high milk content will also be exempt because of their calcium content.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, welcomed the tax but said more was needed to tackle spiraling levels of obesity.

He said: “We know from experiences in other countries that taxation on sugary drinks can improve health outcomes. With one in five children starting primary school – aged four or five – overweight, this is a vital step forward.

“To ensure that we can reduce the growing levels of obesity in the UK, and protect the next generation from diet-related illness, we are keen to see action in other areas that were not in the childhood obesity strategy, such as restrictions on junk food marketing that targets children, and action on price promotions.”

Alcoholic drinks with an alcohol by volume of up to 1.2% are included in the levy although some of these drinks will be exempt.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “Whilst we would have liked to see the Chancellor increase duty on the cheapest alcohol, we are encouraged to see that the government will be consulting on introducing a new duty band for high-strength ciders, which would mean these ciders are taxed at a higher rate.

“High-strength cider currently receives the lowest duty per unit of any alcohol product, and the government clearly recognises the need to address the anomalies in the tax system which mean that these ciders can be taxed at such low rates. Dealing with these anomalies in the tax system would target those most in need, and would move the tax system towards a more sensible scheme where the stronger alcohol is, the more highly it is taxed.

“By taxing these drinks more strongly, the government will also encourage producers to lower the alcohol content in the drinks.”

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