Sugar Tax is a start…

On March 16th 2016, the government announced that highly sweetened drinks will be subject to a ‘sugar tax’ to come into effect in 2018. According to Jane Ellison, Minister responsible for diabetes, it’s the first step towards the childhood obesity strategy which will be launched this summer.

The facts according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies:

  • Pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks are excluded.
  • The main levy rates will be (i) 18p/litre for drinks with 5-8g of sugar per 100mls and (ii) 24p/litre for drinks with more than 8g of sugar per 100mls.
  • The revenue target is £500 million for the second year after the introduction of the sugar tax (2019-2020).

Who consumes drinks with added sugar?
Over 90% of households get more than the recommended share of calories from added sugar.

  • Households with children consume about 21% from carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks.
  • Households without children consume significantly less – 14%.

BMJ Open published its report on sugar in fruit juices and smoothies and made five recommendations based on their findings: 

  1. Fruit juices/juice drinks/smoothies with a high free sugar content should not count as one of the UK government’s ‘5 a day’ recommendations, as is currently the case.
  2. Fruit should preferably be eaten whole, not as juice.
  3. Parents should dilute fruit juice with water or opt for unsweetened juices, and only allow these drinks during meals.
  4. Portion sizes should be limited to 150ml a day.
  5. Manufacturers should stop adding unnecessary amounts of sugars, and therefore calories, to their fruit drink/juice/smoothie products—and if they can’t do this voluntarily, the government should step in with statutory regulations. (

Without doubt the sugar tax is a start in the right direction……
Yes, undoubtedly the introduction of the sugar tax is a step in the right direction but we have to remember that a lot of other foods contain unnecessary added sugar and these should not be ignored by the government. In addition, sugar is only part of the problem causing overweight and obesity – we need to think about portion size but above all, we need to remember that so many of us live sedentary lives compared with years ago and this is an important part of today’s problems.

There are two years before the introduction of the sugar tax, so hopefully some of the uncertainties about its effects will be ironed out, such as:

  • How consumers and manufacturers change their behavior.
  • People who have a strong taste for sugar could switch to fruit juices, milkshakes, chocolate or confectionery and this would reduce the effects of the sugar tax.
  • Prices need to increase for this to be effective but this will not happen if the taxes are absorbed by the manufacturers.

The effects for people with Type 1 diabetes
Following the announcement of the sugar tax some people and organisations have expressed concerns that this will result in hypo treatments being more expensive and even suggested that it will discriminate against people with Type 1 diabetes.(They should remember that people with Type 2 diabetes also have hypos!)

Perhaps we should get this in perspective, the additional cost of say 100ml of Lucozade to treat a hypo will be a few pence and even if you have a lot of hypos in a year, it is still only a couple of pounds a year.

Consumption of excess sugar is closely linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes, tooth decay and linked to heart disease and some cancers. If the sugar tax helps to reduce these conditions and the costs to the NHS, then surely it is well worth people with Type 1 paying the extra few pence. It is also worth remembering that people with diabetes taking medication receive all prescriptions free of charge, even for conditions not connected to their diabetes but other people pay £8.40 for each prescription item.