Expert comment on new sugar tax announced in the Budget

In the 2016 Budget the Chancellor George Osborne unveiled a tax on sugary drinks to be introduced in 2018. Rates will vary according to the volume of the sugar-sweetened drinks companies produce or import.

There will be two bands - one for total sugar content above five grams per 100 millilitres and a second, higher band for the most sugary drinks with more than eight grams per 100 millilitres. The Office for Budget Responsibility says it could result in as much as an 80% price rise for a two-litre bottle of own-brand cola. Pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks will be excluded, and the smallest producers will have an exemption from the scheme.

So is this a well-designed tax? And will it solve the childhood obesity problem? Dr Laura Cornelsen, Health Economist from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who has researched the impact of taxing unhealthy food and drink in other countries, said:

"The tax on soft drinks announced by the Government today is good news for public health as it's a bold step towards tackling obesity, particularly among children. The tax will reduce some of the consumption and raise revenue, but it also has a big value in its message to both producers and consumers - we need less added sugar in our soft drinks.

"The proposed two-tier system will help soften the blow for the producers and will hopefully encourage reduction in added sugars in soft drinks. Also, producers have plenty of time in the next two years to further reformulate the drinks to include less added sugar before the tax will take effect. It's very encouraging to hear that the revenues from the tax will be directed to promote more sports in schools.

"The tax is of course not a silver bullet and we can't rely on it to solve the childhood obesity problem. Hopefully the Government will continue to work on a further range of measures in its Childhood Obesity Strategy."

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