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BMA briefing: A tax on sugary drinks

In July 2015, the BMA published a report which highlighted the need for wide-ranging action to promote healthier diets, particularly among children and young people. One of the report’s key recommendations was the introduction of a 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.


Key points

  • The BMA is deeply concerned about the impact of poor diet on the public’s health, which is responsible for up to 70,000 deaths a year, and has the most significant impact on the NHS budget, costing £6bn a year.
  • The intake of added sugars by many children and adults in the UK far exceeds recommended levels. Sugar-sweetened beverages are a major source of added sugars and are typically high in calories and low in essential vitamins and minerals.
  • The BMA believes that the introduction of a tax on all sugar- sweetened beverages, which increases the price by at least 20 per cent, could reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by around 180,000.
  • Public Health England also recommends the introduction of a minimum 10-20% on high sugar products through the use of a tax or levy such as on full sugar soft drinks.
  • Funds raised by the introduction of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could subsidise the sale of fruit and vegetables, and help tackle the increasing level of obesity and diet-related health problems in the UK.
  • A sugar tax is just one of a range of interventions needed to promote healthier diets among children and young people. The BMA believes a strong regulatory framework should be central to the approach to reducing the burden of diet-related ill health in the UK, which focuses on interventions that limit commercial influences on people’s dietary behaviour and encourage health dietary patterns.


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