Sugar tax 'won’t solve UK obesity crisis'

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

ALMR's Nicholls: tax set to increase cost burden for pubs
ALMR's Nicholls: tax set to increase cost burden for pubs

Related tags Soft drink United kingdom Tax Bbpa Chief executive

A coalition representing thousands of small businesses has called on the Government with a new campaign to ditch former Chancellor George Osborne’s tax on soft drinks.  

The campaign, called Face the Facts, Can the Tax​, was launched following an Oxford Economics report that claimed the tax could place 4,000 jobs a risk and wipe £132m from UK GDP.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), said: “The introduction of a tax on sugary drinks will increase cost burdens for businesses and consumers and we do not believe it will be the ‘silver bullet’ that will tackle this country’s obesity problem.

“Eating out is an occasional treat and pubs, and restaurants have worked hard to reformulate menus, reduce calories and provide customers with greater choice and nutritional information.”

'Unlikely to help'

She added: “Those efforts are ongoing, as part of the sector’s wider promotion of responsible consumption. And additional cost burdens are unlikely to help in this regard.”

The tax was only likely to reduce calorie intake by five calories per person, per day, the Oxford Economics report claimed.

Businesses from across the hospitality industry, manufacturing, wholesalers and retailers have thrown their weight behind the campaign.

Rather than taxing soft drinks, the Government should focus on more "meaningful" measures to tackle the spread of obesity and support businesses, they claim.

Brigid Simmons, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), said: “Soft drinks are an important part of the sales mix and are a great choice for drivers.

“The new tax further increases the burden of taxation on pubs – and will push up prices of soft drinks for pubgoers.”

George Osborne introduced the sugar levy​ in March’s budget, telling parliament he was "not prepared" to look back and say "we did nothing" on obesity and sugary drinks.


Companies were given two years to prepare for the tax, which will be assessed on the volume of sugar-sweetened drinks that companies produce or import.

The Office for Budget Responsibility claimed the levy would raise roughly £520m, which would be used to double the amount of funding for sports in the country’s primary schools.

However, speaking at a discussion on the Conservative party’s food and health policy briefly before the levy was announced, director of the Institute of Economic Affairs Christopher Snowdon said discussions about how to tackle the crisis were taking place "against a backdrop of collective madness".

He said: “It feels like an easy win to say if we raise the price of fizzy drinks by a couple of pence and get the food industry to reformulate meals then, without any kind of personal responsibility or self-restraint, we will become less fat.”

Related news

Show more