We back calls from Sustain that proposes that the money raised from a duty on sugary drinks  should be ring-fenced for a ‘Children’s Future Fund’ to spend on programmes to improve children’s health and future well-being (see report here).
We support it because Scotland has one of the highest obesity rates in the world. There is an overwhelming body of scientific evidence that links consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) to obesity, cardiovascular diseases and other ailments like cancer.
Pointing to the high levels of diet-related illness  which is costing the NHS £6 billion every year , the report makes three recommendations for Budget 2013  to:
The report also recommends, in the longer-term, that our VAT system is revised to reflect the healthiness of food and drinks and that unsustainable foods also carry a levy.
These calls are very similar to the Soda Tax proposals Fife Diet laid out as part of our Food Manifesto. But these policies have a specific Scottish dimension and need Scottish-focused remedies. Not least because we already have a food and drink policy but also because health and education are devolved matters.
According to data provided by OECD and the Scottish Health Survey 2010, Scotland has the third greatest obesity rate of the 17 countries considered, only surpassed by US and Mexico, and is the fattest in the whole Europe. Between 2003 and 2010 the percentage of obese men and women rose from 22% to 27% and 26% to 29% respectively. In 2010 13% of Scottish girls, and 16% of boys were obese. A recent report looking at summer advertising campaigns for soft drinks have found that many of the marketing messages are misleading, and that they are encouraging parents and children to consume drinks that contradict public health advice. (5)
If no additional prevention measures are in place, the conservative trend is that by 2030 41% of the Scottish population will be obese for age group 16-64. The direct and indirect cost of overweight and obesity to the NHS Scotland in 2030 could be as high as £3billion. (6)
Taxing unhealthy food and drink is becoming a popular political measure in various countries to tackle the obesity epidemic and associated health risks. Denmark has recently introduced a tax on food rich in saturated fats, including butter, potato chips, and pork.
This is happening all over the world. Hungary has started to tax food that has a high share of salt, sugar and fat.
The mayor of New York City has proposed a ban that would prevent the use of government subsidised food stamps to purchase soda or sugary drinks.
France has recently approved a tax on sugary drinks – €0.01 per can – that will boost the state’s coffers with 120 million Euros (7). The tax has been introduced as part of the government programme to fight obesity and as one of the measures of the wider austerity programme.
So Fife Diet welcomes and supports the Sustain proposals, but asks that these be put in a Scottish context and reiterates our proposal that:
We introduce a SODA TAX on all SSBs based on:
1. The report defines sugary drinks as “any non-alcoholic beverage with added sugar which is consumed cold”. Sugary drinks are the easiest category for which to argue for duties because of (1) the research linking them to obesity and dental decay (2) the fact that they usually offer absolutely no nutritional benefits other than calories (energy) and (3) there are successful precedents for applying duties on them in other countries – for example, Finland, France, Hungary and some states in the USA (see p21 of the report for a full list).
2. In the UK, one in four adults is classified as obese and one in three children is already obese or overweight before they finish primary school, more than in any other country in Europe, see: ‘Statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet: England, 2012’: http://tinyurl.com/amecrvv
3. See: Mike Rayner & Peter Scarborough, “The Burden of Food Related Ill Health in the UK”, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 59, no.12 (December 1, 2005): 1054-1057; reported in: Poor diet ‘costs NHS £6bn a year’, BBC News, www.news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4436232.stm
4. The recommendations (p.39) for Budget 2013, due to be presented by Chancellor George Osborne on 20 March 2013, are that it should:
5. Children’s Food Campaign. (2012). Soft Drinks, Hard Sell: How soft drink companies target children and their parents. Retrieved, April 26, from http://www.sustainweb.org/resources/files/reports/SoftDrinksHardSell_lowres.pdf
6. Scottish Government. (2010). Future Estimates. Preventing overweight and obesity in Scotland. Retrieved, March 12, 2012, from http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/02/17140721/14
7. FCRN (2012, January 16). French Soda tax comes into force. Retrieved, April 27, from http://www.fcrn.org.uk/research-library/policies-and-legislation/legislation/french-soda-tax-comes-force?utm_source=FCRN+Mailing&utm_campaign=19929bff1d-FCRN-Mailing-9-Mar&utm_medium=email