Tax leaves cavity in wallets

The introduction of a new sugar tax on soft drinks has meant that consumers could end up paying more for their favourite fizzy drinks.

The ‘Soft Drinks Industry Levy’, or ‘sugar tax’, was first announced in 2016 in the hopes of putting pressure on soft drinks manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of their drinks, in a bid to help curb levels of obesity associated with a high sugar intake in the diet. The tax will hit the manufacturers of drinks with high sugar contents the hardest, with drinks containing more than 8g of sugar per 100ml set to be taxed 24p per litre. Drinks containing 5-8g of sugar per 100ml are faced with a lower rate of 18p per litre.

Ahead of the changes, many producers have made changes to the recipes of their drinks to reduce the sugar content of their drinks in order to avoid being taxed. Brands such as Fanta, Lucozade and Ribena are all cutting down the amount of sugar in their drinks following the new tax.

However, not all of these changes have been met with a positive reaction, with the manufacturers of Irn-Bru facing online petitions and major backlash after heavily reducing the sugar content of the drink from 10.3g to 4.7g per 100ml, which some have argued has altered its taste.

Even so, some manufacturers like Coca-Cola and Pepsi have left their recipes unchanged, meaning that this is where consumers will feel the most difference price-wise. Public Health England previously reported that one 330ml can of Coca-Cola contains as many as nine cubes of sugar, so, it is little surprise that Coca-Cola will be cutting the size of its 1.75l bottle down to 1.5l and putting its price up by 20p in the face of the new tax.

Overall, the tax has faced mixed reactions from consumers. Whilst some have praised the tax for attempting to combat some of the health risks associated with a high sugar diet, such as obesity, and tooth decay which could potentially relieve some of the pressure on the NHS, others have been more sceptical and have raised the point that shoppers might just continue to buy the same amount of these high sugar drinks and pay more for them, rather than change their shopping habits because of the changes. Others have suggested that there is an argument to be made that this is a tax which will end up affecting those who are less well-off the most.

This demographic will experience a rise in the traditionally cheaper more sugary drinks that tend to be more affordable to them, without these changes being levelled out by any attempts to make typically healthier foods and drinks cheaper and more accessible to those on lower incomes. The long-term effects of the tax on diet are difficult to measure at so early a stage.

The government has already made plans to use the £240m expected to be raised from the tax to promote healthier lifestyles, particularly amongst school children, by investing this money back into school sports and breakfast clubs across England.


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Rosie Burgoyne