Mixed reaction to sugar tax call

Jamie Oliver
TV chef Jamie Oliver

A Campaign calling on the UK government to introduce a levy on soft drinks containing added sugar has been met with a mixed reaction from on-trade operators.
The ‘Sugar Rush’ campaign, led by TV chef Jamie Oliver, has proposed the government introduce a levy of 20p per litre on soft drinks with added sugar, equating to around 7p per 330ml can, to help tackle childhood obesity.
But the proposal has been met with mixed views in the trade.
Fiona Brown of The Leadburn Inn, a family-focused outlet in Midlothian, said she didn’t agree with Oliver’s position, adding that parents should be allowed freedom of choice.
“I think parents are quite capable of making their own decision,” she told SLTN.
“The majority of people are responsible enough to know there’s 14 teaspoons of sugar in a bottle of Coke.
“I would say  probably newsagents and supermarkets are selling much more [full sugar soft drinks to children] than the licensed trade.”
Karen Calvert, owner of family-friendly bar The Paper Mill in Lasswade, said her business would be “highly supportive” of a sugar tax.
“On a personal level yes, I do [support the proposal],” she said.
“On a business level we don’t have a lot of kids coming in having sugary drinks.
“It would affect other parts of the business, but I think the benefit to health for children is worth taking this on the nose.”
JD Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin was critical of the sugar tax campaign, saying a soft drinks tax “will cost pubs millions at a time when prices in pubs are already very high compared to supermarkets”. Martin said sales of sugar-free drinks are “increasing at a rapid rate” across the JD Wetherspoon estate.
“Customers already pay a lot for soft drinks when they go out and we don’t need another ‘big brother tax,” said Martin.
Presenting to the UK government’s health select committee on October 15, Oliver suggested the UK adopt a ‘sugar tax’ scheme similar to those in Mexico and France. The TV chef said the introduction of the tax would help to reduce childhood obesity and could raise £1 billion for the UK exchequer.
A leaked report compiled by NHS agency and government advisory group Public Health England (PHE) also recommended the introduction of a price increase on high sugar products “through the use of a tax or levy such as on full sugar soft drinks”.
The UK government said it has “no plan to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages”, but has not ruled the measure out.
It said it will announce its plans for tackling childhood obesity “by the end of the year”.