David Cameron threatens to introduce sugar tax if industry fails to combat 'obesity crisis'

David Cameron had previously ruled out a sugar tax because there were 'more effective ways of tackling the issue' but on Thursday promised a 'fully-worked-up programme later this year'

Matt Dathan
Online political reporter
Thursday 07 January 2016 16:47
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David Cameron promised an announcement on tackling childhood obesity 'later this year'
David Cameron promised an announcement on tackling childhood obesity 'later this year'

David Cameron has threatened to impose a sugar tax on fizzy drinks to combat Britain's "obesity crisis" if the industry fails to introduce measures to tackle the problem.

He promised a "fully worked-up programme" later this year to cut down on the consumption of sugary drinks and food in the UK, which he said was not just causing soaring obesity rates in the UK but also contributing to heart disease, cancer and having a detrimental effect on NHS finances.

It signals that a U-turn is on the way from a Prime Minister who ruled out the prospect of a sugar tax in October, saying there were "more effective ways of tackling this issue than putting a tax on sugar".

Responding to reports on Thursday that ministers were considering a levy on sugary drinks as part of the Government's upcoming strategy for tackling childhood obesity, Mr Cameron insisted he was against "having to resort to taxes" but said "we shouldn't be in the business of ruling things out".

"I don’t really want to put new taxes onto anything," Mr Cameron said at a press conference on Thursday.

"But we do have to recognise that we face potentially in Britain something of an obesity crisis when we look at the effect of obesity on not just diabetes but the effect on heart disease, potentially on cancer, we look at the costs on the NHS, the life-shortening potential of these problems.

"We do need to have a fully-worked up programme to deal with this problem and address these issues in Britain and we’ll be making announcements later this year.

"Now of course it would be far better if we could make progress on all these issues without having to resort to taxes – that would be my intention.

"But what matters is that we do make progress; I think we need to look at this in the same way in the past we’ve looked at the dangers of smoking to health and other health-related issues.

"So that is my commitment; we need a fully-worked up strategy, we shouldn’t be in the business of ruling things out but obviously putting on extra taxes on things is not something I aim to do, it’s something I’d rather avoid."

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