Tax sugary drinks to save lives, says Sustain report

The price of sugary drinks should rise by as much as 20p a litre, with the money going towards improving children's health, a report claims.

Sweetened drinks: Sustain charity urges price rise
Sweetened drinks: Sustain charity urges price rise

The report by Sustain, the farming charity, suggests increasing the price of sweetened drinks by up to 20p a litre could bring in an extra £1bn for the Government, and would help save lives by combating obesity.

The £1bn raised would help pay for free school meals and measures to encourage children to eat healthier food, such as fruit and vegetables, the report maintains

Charlie Powell, campaigns director for Sustain, said: "Sugar-laden drinks are mini-health time bombs, contributing to dental diseases, obesity and a host of life-threatening illnesses, which cost the NHS billions each year.

"We are delighted that so many organisations want to challenge the Government to show it has a public health backbone, by including a sugary drinks duty in Budget 2013. It's a simple and easy-to-understand measure which will help save lives by reducing sugar in our diets and raising much-needed money to protect children's health."

The report has been backed by more than 60 organisations, including the National Heart Forum, Friends of the Earth, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, and the Royal Society for Public Health.

The Department of Health said: "Our primary responsibility is to help the nation to be healthier. We keep all international evidence under review. But we believe the voluntary action we have put in place is delivering results."

The Government has said it was sceptical of legislation. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, told ITV "I'm sceptical of legislation – in the end this is a matter of individual choice. It's a matter of people making decisions about their own lives, but I don't rule it out and there are things that we're doing."

The British Soft Drinks Association, commenting on the report, said: "Obesity is a serious and complex problem, but a tax on soft drinks, which contribute just 2% of the total calories in the average diet, will not help address it. Over the last 10 years, the consumption of soft drinks containing added sugar has fallen by 9% while the incidence of obesity has increased by 15%."