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UK government plans for tax on sugary drinks

Reporter: Richard Bestic 丨 CCTV.com

04-07-2016 13:00 BJT

As the world marks the United Nations Health Day, a number of new reports from the World Health Organisation have warned obesity is on the rise with potentially disastrous consequences. And for the first time, there are more people in the world who are obese than there are those underweight. The UK government is so concerned, it’s planning to slap a tax on fizzy drinks.

Around the world, 20 percent of adults will be obese in less than a decade, according to the WHO report. And there’s no chance of hitting the UN’s goal of halting by 2025 obesity’s rapid rise. In Britain the figures are worse, triggering government plans for a controversial tax on fizzy drinks.

"I’m not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation, I’m sorry, we knew there was a problem with sugary drinks, we knew it caused disease, but we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing," UK finance minister George Osborne said.

The UK government has the support of health campaigners, who claim a 40 percent reduction of sugar in soft drinks over five years could prevent 300,000 cases of diabetes in the country. Sugar is a global health problem and should be treated as such.

"It is an absolutely massive global problem. It’s already a global problem in the UK, America and Mexico. We have the heaviest population or most obese populations in Europe," Professor Graham McGregor with Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine said.

The soft drinks lobby, however, specifically uses the example of Mexico to counter UK government plans for a tax on sugary drinks. More than 70 percent of the Mexican population is deemed overweight or obese and government taxes have been introduced to change that. A strategy that’s failed, according to the UK soft drinks industry.

"Where taxes have been introduced, the evidence suggests that they reduce calorie intake by just about six calories a day in the case of Mexico. That’s not going to address obesity, that’s not going to have a real impact," Gavub Partington, director of General UK Soft Drinks Association, said.

The UK government’s plan could be the subject of legal challenge, should it be claimed that the new tax disrupts the free flow of trade, while the industry already insists its reducing sugar content in its drinks.

The United Nations recognises that diabetes and indeed obesity are two internationally growing problems. However, as the UK government has discovered, finding a solution to those problems is often easier said than done.

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