Time to tax sugar drinks

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With warnings that a third of the population will be obese by 2030, the British Medical Association is right to recommend a 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened drinks to subsidise the sale of fruit and vegetables, and help tackle the increasing level of obesity and diet-related health problems across the UK.

As a local GP I see a growing number of over-weight patients with diet-related illnesses and am increasingly concerned about the impact of poor diet, which is responsible for up to 70,000 UK deaths and £6bn of costs to the NHS every year.

While sugar-sweetened drinks are very high in calories they are of limited nutritional value and there is increasing concern about how they contribute towards conditions like diabetes.

We know from experiences in other countries that taxation on unhealthy food and drinks can improve health outcomes, and the strongest evidence of effectiveness is for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

If a tax of at least 20 per cent is introduced, it could reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by around 180,000 people and reduce the harm of diet-related illness.

Dr Brian Balmer,

BMA representative.