Health Policy

06.04.18

Tax on sugary drinks ‘will help ease obesity epidemic’, says RCGP

Today, the UK’s tax on sugary drinks came into effect as part of the government’s flagship anti-obesity policy.

This new tax comes into effect as obesity-related illnesses continue to put a strain on the NHS and public health at large. There was an 18% increase in the last year for conditions caused or complicated by obesity, according to NHS Digital.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “A tax on sugary drinks is a positive move forward in tackling this obesity epidemic.”

There were 617,000 obesity-related admissions in total in England, of which 10,705 were directly for obesity treatment such as bariatric surgery, which is considered a last resort treatment. According to data from the OECD, the UK has the sixth highest level of obesity in the world.

Children from deprived communities are far more likely to be obese than those from affluent communities. Obesity was highest in Wolverhampton at 14% and lowest in Kingston upon Thames at 5% for primary school starters. For Year 6, it was highest in Barking and Dagenham at 29% and lowest in Rutland at 11%.

“Obesity can have a devastating impact on our patients' long-term health and wellbeing,” continued Stokes-Lampard, “but we are particularly concerned about the increasing rates of obesity in children and young people – this is simply setting them up for a life plagued with serious health conditions, including increased risks of a range of cancers as well as diabetes and heart disease.

“We hope these measures will go some way in encouraging people to cut down on the amount of sugar they are consuming, but a levy on its own will not solve the obesity crisis – it must be part of a broader strategy which targets patients' overall lifestyle changes including diet and exercise.

“The buck cannot lie with healthcare professionals alone. We need a society-wide approach with schools, workplaces, local authorities, food and drinks manufacturers and public health bodies all playing a part.”

The LGA has previously called for the sugar levy on soft drinks to be distributed to councils so that they can administer it amongst schools, but Whitehall has so far not given local authorities the full reins over the tax.

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