Sugar tax now in force

A new measure which aims to reduce childhood obesity rates and improve the health of the nation has today come into force.

The soft drinks industry levey applies to the production and importation of soft drinks containing added sugar and encourages manufacturers to reduce the amount of added sugar in their products. It will not apply to any drink where sugar is not added.

In response to the tax coming into effect on Friday 6 April, Caroline Cerny, Obesity Health Alliance Lead, of which the RCPCH is a member, said:

“It’s great news that the soft drinks levy is now in place. We’re all eating more sugar than is recommended and sugary soft drinks contribute to this - particularly in teens where sugary drinks are their top source of sugar. They provide empty calories and contribute not only to rising levels of obesity but also to poor dental health.

"Over the past year, before the levy has come into force, we’ve seen drinks companies begin to reduce the amount of sugar in their drinks to avoid the levy. We hope that trend continues and people are encouraged to choose healthier options to drink.”

Data released just this week from NHS Digital shows an 18% increase in admissions in the last year either for obesity treatment or conditions caused or complicated by obesity, such as heart disease or pregnancy.

In England, there were 617,000 obesity-related admissions, of which 10,705 were for obesity treatment such as bariatric surgery. The most common problem caused or worsened by obesity was wear and tear of the knee joints, followed by the admission of women where the pregnancy had become high risk because of their weight.

Responding to those statistics, Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:

These latest figures reinforce the urgency with which we need to tackle obesity in childhood in order to reduce the strain on an individual’s health, as well as health services, later in life. We know that obese children are likely to go on to be obese in adulthood, which can result in serious conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The increase in hospital admissions directly attributed to obesity is an indicator that this impact is already being seen.

"The reduction in the number of obese children at reception age could signal some positive news, with the potential that early intervention measures are taking effect, but the increasingly higher obesity prevalence in year 6 children demonstrates the need for continued efforts, with a particular focus needed on school-aged children.

"Evidence clearly shows that deprivation plays a major role in obesity, and it’s concerning that these figures from NHS Digital show the inequalities gap continuing to widen, with children from the most deprived areas at least twice as likely to be obese compared with their more affluent peers.

"Children from deprived communities are more likely to be exposed to junk food marketing, so it’s vital the Government takes bold action to tackle the obesogenic environment and support people to make healthy food choices, by restricting junk food advertising before the 9pm watershed and by limiting the number of fast food outlets opening near schools and colleges.”

Ends.