UK soda tax introduced in bold move against childhood obesity

Not many people saw it coming. But the UK just announced a big bold tax on soda, as a major part of their childhood obesity strategy. Britain joins a growing number of other countries, like Mexico, with similar taxes on sugar and soda.

BBC News: Sugar tax: How bold is it?

BBC News: Sugar tax: How it will work?

Telegraph: Sugar tax: what does it mean and who will be affected

The role of government

Many people are skeptical that a tax is the right way to solve problems. To me that is a political question and this is not a political blog. Fact is, governments are already taxing and regulating other addictive and potentially harmful substances, like tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

It is clear that sugar has addictive qualities and excessive sugar intake, particularly from soda, drives our current epidemics of obesity, diabetes and other diseases. Maybe it is a bigger threat to public health than tobacco. Certainly for kids it is.

And so, people who feel that taxation and regulation is wrong for any drug – that’s a perfectly reasonable view. But if governments are supposed to tax and regulate things like tobacco, it should also use the same tools to protect our children from harm from sugar.

The fight is on

There are other tools – education, perhaps most importantly, and also regulation. But this is an important step.

I think this soda tax in the UK is a big bold move that has massive symbolic value. The fight is on and sugar is the new tobacco.

We’ve seen massive health gains in the last 50 years from people to a large degree giving up smoking in the developed world. The future health gains from reducing sugar consumption may be even more impressive.

Jamie Oliver

The celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been campaigning for this tax, here are a couple of reactions from him.


  1. Paul
    A soda tax isn't "bold" it's brash. I thought LCHF was all about NOT blaming the victims of governments' misinformation campaign. Taking more of the victims hard-earned money seems like doubling-down on evil to me. The way to fix things is to finally let accurate information flow, not more government coercion. My prediction: with its ugly nose under the tent, governments will soon tax red-meat and butter because the idea is NOT to help people but to take more of their hard-earned stuff. Sad and authoritarian nonsense.
  2. bill
    "There's wonderful nutrients in fruit juice."

    Next, we can expect the anti-fat advocates
    being elated when government institutes
    a tax on "added fat." And just what problem
    will that solve?

    Be careful what you wish for...

  3. Diane
    Although far from ideal, I do see the soda tax in the UK as a needed first step in waking the public up to the fact that drinking sugary beverages is not good for health. As a UK citizen, I see how blinded most people are to the dangers, especially young people, many of whom, see high sugar drinks with names like 'Monster Ripper' and 'Mountain Dew' as cool accessories to be seen with. My own teenage son is sadly addicted to these drinks and has already had abnormal liver function test results from his doctor. He won't listen to me but maybe now the tide of public opinion is turning he may realise that he has a problem.
  4. Robin Gort
    Penn & Teller had this to say about sugar taxes in 1:15 minutes.
    I agree with them, this doesn't fix the problem and hurts the people who are government mismanagement victims to begin with even more.
  5. murray
    There are plenty of good reasons to tax refined sugar, which Dr. Robert Lustig lays out well. I would prefer a steep tax on all input refined sugar (in all processed foods), to be passed down the chain to the ultimate consumer. The whole point of the tax is to make it financially less attractive to purchase the taxed product in order to reduce sugar consumption, so it is a good thing that the highest consumers of refined sugar face the highest disincentive. Even the UK conservatives understand that this is a good tax. However, they came up short: refined sugar should be treated as alcohol and banned from being served to children.

    The slippery slope argument is unconvincing. Refined sugar is qualitatively quite different from an intact cut of beef in many respects. On the other hand, highly refined vegetable oil is qualitatively similar. I'm content to fight those battles when they come using contemporary science. The days are over when dieticians ruled the Earth.

  6. Ralph
    I remember when the EU subsidized dairy farmers, overproduction led to a surplus "mountain of butter".

    That was a slippery slope.

  7. Perl
    Instead of a tax, the U.S. could just take the radical step of ceasing to provide massive subsidies that support sugar, corn syrup, and other sweeteners. That would raise the cost of these ingredients to their natural market prices, while allowing that funding to be used for other things (possibly health care or nutritional education). I'd have to agree that before we start taxing foods, we should be absolutely sure that we understand the science behind those foods. The government has already spent decades promoting the wrong diet, acting before the science was conclusive. While I think sugar is objectively bad for you, some randomized controlled trials would go a long way towards proving that before we start taxing it.
  8. Richard
    Taxes by the government are like drinks to an alcoholic.

    One is too many and a thousand never enough.

    They just want the money. Philadelphia taxes sugar and sugar-free drinks. To fight obesity.

  9. Tim
    The whole point of the tax is to make it financially less attractive to purchase the taxed product in order to reduce sugar consumption, so it is a good thing that the highest consumers of refined sugar face the highest disincentive.

    And it feels so good to be able to coerce other people on how to conduct their lives in the prescribed know, like the low fat thing. It's for their own good, right?

    Doctor, heal thyself...

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