A new briefing note from the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) shows that the evidence for a sugar tax is weak, at best. David Cameron's spokesman has said that “When it comes to a Sugar Tax, the answer is no”. The TPA today urges the Prime Minister to stand by that statement.
Evidence gathered for this briefing shows that:
- Sugar consumption in the UK is falling, with per capita consumption in 1901 being around 41kg/year compared to today's 33.7kg/year
- Consumption of all carbonated drinks fell by 220 million litres from 2011 to 2014, of which just 45 per cent are of "full sugar" and so would be subject to the proposed tax
- The percentage of children classified as overweight or obese was lower in 2014 than when it peaked a decade ago
There are other ways to help reduce obesity: public health information campaigns and promoting awareness of particular health problems are obvious alternatives; and encouraging more activity and exercise is crucial too.
Perhaps most importantly of all, the government must resist the urge to intervene where it is not needed - families and individuals must take responsibility for their own choices and actions. Furthermore, taxpayers in the poorest households were already hit hardest when VAT, an existing tax on unhealthy food, was hiked to 20 per cent in the last Parliament.
Commenting on the research, Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:
"A sugar tax would be deeply regressive and hit those on lower incomes the hardest. Rather than capitulate to the self-appointed High Priests of the Nanny State in the public health lobby, the Government should encourage personal responsibility and let the numerous expensive programmes they have put in place around education and information bed in. Changes to Britain's diets will happen via a long-term cultural shift, not by hiking the cost of living for the poorest families."