The UK Fizzy Drink Tax

In an effort to reduce rates of childhood obesity and raise additional revenue, the UK government passed draft legislation this past spring adding a tax to sugary drinks. Drinks with sugar content greater than 5 grams per 100 milliliters will face an additional tax of £0.18 ($0.22) per liter. Drinks with more than 8 grams of sugar per 100 milliliters will face an even higher rate of £0.24 ($0.29) per liter.

The tax, commonly known as “the fizzy drink tax,” is expected to raise £380 million ($462 million) in revenues annually, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. It is also regarded as an important public health initiative, hopefully helping to reduce Brits’ sugar intake and to drive down obesity rates, which have spiked up in the country in recent years. One of every five British schoolchildren is now obese – and sugary drinks are reportedly the single largest source of dietary sugar for both children and adolescents in the country.

There is strong evidence to suggest that the tax could indeed have a major effect when it comes to curbing the population’s sugar intake. The tax isn’t actually slated to come into effect until spring 2018, but it is already working. In preparation for the tax, soda and drink manufacturers are actually working to preemptively cut sugar levels in their drinks, lest their bottom lines be hurt once the tax is introduced.

A number of prominent companies are already making changes. Lucozade Ribena Suntory cut the amount of sugar added into its products by 50 percent as of July of this year, bringing all its beverage products under the 5-gram sugar tax threshold. Similarly, Coca-Cola is also reportedly considering ways to cut added sugar in its products. In the UK specifically, it has supposedly already cut calories and sugar in brands like Fanta and Sprite by about 30 percent.

The hope is that the producers of these drinks will accommodate rising taxes by continuing to cut sugar content, leading to a general reduction in sugar intake across the country and improved public health.

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