Tax sugary drinks to reduce obesity, says new study

Plan would also earn Treasury £276m, but the beverage industry insists research is 'misguided'

A 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks would reduce the number of obese adults in the UK by 180,000, bring in £276m to the Treasury and save the NHS millions, a study has claimed.

The proposal, which would increase the cost of a can of Coca Cola by approximately 12p, would have a small but significant impact on growing obesity rates in young people, who are far more likely to drink high-sugar fizzy drinks, the researchers said.

However, the drinks industry called the research “misguided” and said a sugary-drinks tax would do nothing to combat obesity.

The findings come a week after the Government’s own physical activity tsar, Fred Turok, spoke at an event hosted by Coca Cola at which he urged the company to help “change the debate” and shift the focus of public health efforts away from obesity and towards increasing levels of physical activity.

Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, said the authors of the study, which is published in the British Medical Journal today. Researchers from Oxford and Reading universities used data from surveys on consumers’ buying habits, the price of drinks and body-weight to estimate the impact of a 20 per cent surcharge on high-sugar-content drinks.

Such a tax would cut obesity rates by 1.3 per cent, and reduce the number of overweight people by 285,000, the authors said, with the bulk of the impact seen in people aged 16 to 29: the major consumers of sugary drinks.

Obesity, which is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and other serious medical conditions, costs the NHS billions every year.

Mr Turok, the founder of gym chain LA Fitness, chairs UK Active, which promotes physical activity and is partnered with the Department of Health’s Physical Activity Network, which Mr Turok also chairs alongside Health minister Dan Poulter.

Last week Mr Turok told delegates at Coca Cola’s “Together We Move” event, that a focus on obesity as a public health issue was distracting from the greater dangers of physical inactivity, and urged the soft-drinks giant to help “change the debate from obesity to activity”, adding that the UK seemed to be “obsessed with obesity”.

His comments drew criticism from leading cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra. “There is no doubt that regular physical activity is good for health,” he told The Independent. “[But] to suggest that companies associated with junk food should use physical activity to promote their brand in my view is a damaging public-health message.”

Speaking after the event Mr Turok said: “Obesity... must be addressed through portion control, better quality food intake and reducing sugar. But inactivity is a silent killer even if you are thin. This is about a healthy overall lifestyle, measuring the fitness of your heart, not just the size of your waist.”

Commenting on the BMJ study, Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said there was “ample evidence” that taxing soft drinks would not curb obesity.

“Trying to blame one set of products is misguided, particularly when they comprise a mere 2 per cent of calories in the average diet,” he said.

The Department of Health said it was helping to reduce obesity through its Responsibility Deals – voluntary pledges in which food and drink makers agree to reduce the level of unhealthy ingredients in some of their products.

A spokesperson said: “We believe [this] will help people make healthier choices, but we keep all international evidence under review.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker