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.”

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
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
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
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

    Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    General Cover Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

    Day In a Page

    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
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?