Will taxing sugary soft drinks curb childhood obesity?

Health experts are suggesting that a 7p-a-can ‘fat tax’ on sugary soft drinks should be introduced to try and tackle the rising rates of childhood obesity.

Experts from 61 organisations, including the country’s most distinguished doctors and patrons from the Royal Society for Public Health, are arguing that taxing fizzy drinks could help cut consumption in the same way that tax is used to deter smoking and drinking.

If the move were to go ahead, a regular 330ml can of fizzy drink would be increased in price by 7p. The estimated £1billion a year that will be raised from the tax will be used to promote healthy eating initiatives.

The alliance that is advocating the tax on fizzy drinks has been brought together by Sustain, the campaigning food and health group. If the tax goes ahead, most of the money raised through the extra charges will be used specifically in the Children’s Future Fund, which would be spent on improving children’s health by, for example, providing free school meals or free fruit and vegetable snacks. Responsibility for spending the newly raised money would be given to an independent body, if the initiative goes ahead.

Currently Britain is the fattest country in Europe. One in four adults here are classed as obese and, by the time they leave primary school, one child in three is already obese or overweight. Treating diet-related illnesses, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, costs the NHS £6billion a year. This figure is predicted to rise to £50billion by 2050.

A number of other countries in Europe such as Finland, France and Hungary, have already added a further tax to unhealthy foods, as have some states in the US.