On 6 April 2018 the 'sugar tax' on drinks with high sugar content was introduced. The tax was originally announced in 2016 by then-Chancellor George Osborne, in a move to tackle rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The levy will tax the soft drinks industry for total sugar content over 5 g per 100 ml and is estimated to raise around £520 million a year, which will be spent on increasing sport funding in primary schools.
Manufacturers of soft drinks will be taxed on the volume they produce or import. Drinks will fall into two bands: one for total sugar content over 5 g per 100 ml, and a second band for drinks with more than 8 g per 100 ml.
BSPD: 'The war on high sugar and high energy drinks has to be ongoing'
The British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) has welcomed the introduction of the levy on drinks that contribute to obesity and tooth decay.
President Claire Stevens said: 'There has already been product reformulation so industry can reduce the amount of tax it must pay. Nevertheless, the Treasury's income from the sugar levy will be significant and we would like to see that money dedicated to improving children's oral health through a range of preventive measures.
'We would like to see clearer labelling of food and drink products and greater investment in advice and information to families on nutrition. A range of ongoing measures is the only way to reduce the burden of dental decay in children and young people.
'Most of the mainstream stores and supermarkets are now banning our other bugbear, high energy drinks. Now the Government must step in and legislate to ban sales of these high caffeine drinks everywhere. Unless the government takes action, young people will simply buy these drinks at corner shops. The war on both high sugar and high energy drinks has to be ongoing. They should have no place in the diets of children and young people.'
Oral Health Foundation: 'The sugar tax does not go far enough'
The Oral Health Foundation feels that the sugar tax does not go far enough in addressing Britain's current dental health crisis which has been largely caused by sugar.
Campaigners are angry that no funds have been pledged towards improving education on oral health or action to help reduce the impact of sugar on teeth.
The Government has guaranteed that every penny of the money raised by the tax will go towards improving children's health through increasing sports provision in primary schools. Yet campaigners are angry that no funds have been pledged towards improving education on oral health or action to help reduce the impact of sugar on teeth.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said: 'The sugar tax falls short when it comes to oral health and it does not do enough to address the crisis we have seen develop as a result of excessive sugar consumption in the UK over recent years.
'Tooth decay is the number one reason why children have a general anaesthetic in hospital in England. The Local Government Association (LGA) have recorded that there were nearly 43,000 hospital operations to remove unhealthy teeth in children in the last year alone. It is an utterly heart-breaking situation and something no child should go through.
'The government have somewhat ignored this when they developed the sugar tax and have failed millions of children by not recognising and reacting effectively enough to the risk posed to their oral health by sugary drinks.'
The Oral Health Foundation is also disappointed that government seem to have turned a blind eye to the sugar content in pure fruit juices, milk-based drinks and multi-packs.
FGDP(UK): 'The sugar tax is a game-changer'
The Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP[UK]) has welcomed the new sugar tax as a 'game-changer' for oral health. The Faculty was among the organisations which campaigned for the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.
A typical 330 ml can of fizzy drink contains 35 g (nine teaspoons) of sugar, well in excess of the recommended maximum total intakes of 19 g a day for 4–6-year-olds, 24 g for 7–10-year-olds, and 30 g for those aged 11 or over. However, reformulation since the new tax was announced is already estimated to have removed 45 million kilograms of sugar from the UK's annual drinks consumption, and such has been the desire of firms to avoid it that the Treasury has had to revise down its forecast annual revenue by more than half.
However, with tooth decay costing the NHS £3.4 billion a year, like other organisations within dentistry, the Faculty says that the money raised by the levy should be spent on oral health promotion, and has called for the tax to be extended to milk-based drinks and for further restrictions on the marketing and price promotion of high sugar food and drink.
Dr Mick Horton, Dean of FGDP(UK), said: 'British adults consume three times as much sugar as we should be, and drinks remain our children's biggest dietary source of sugar.
'The sugar tax is a game-changer which will reinforce the message that diet is of critical importance to oral and wider health, and dentists will be delighted to finally see it in effect. Hitting the manufacturers where it hurts has already proved effective, and having to pay extra for the highest sugar drinks should also persuade more consumers to make healthier choices.'
Simplyhealth: Many adults not deterred by price increases
According to survey figures (sample size 5,264 adults) released by YouGov and Simplyhealth on 4 April, just over half of the nation (59%) supports the new sugar tax, but a significant number of people would not be deterred by potential price hikes of sugary beverages. In the same survey, 20% of adults admitted they are addicted to sugar.
Henry Clover, Chief Dental Officer at Simplyhealth, said: 'It's concerning that one in five people say they would not be deterred by potential price increases of sugary drinks, suggesting that sugary beverages are seen as a staple item in some people's daily diets'.
Encouragingly, 53% of respondents in the survey claimed they don't drink sugary drinks, and 17% would consider choosing less sugary and potentially less expensive options, of which 10% didn't like the thought of paying extra and 7% definitely don't want to pay extra.
The survey also revealed that one in four adults (25%) admit to struggling to understand the sugar content on food and drink packaging labels, highlighting that many people may be unwittingly consuming much higher levels of sugar than they realise. Worryingly, amongst these, only 56% of 18–24-year-olds knew that honey is a sugar, and only 41% of the same age group knew that molasses, fruit juice concentrates (44%) and maltose (50%) are also types of sugar.
'It's important that manufacturers and retailers make it as easy as possible for consumers to know what they're purchasing and are transparent with their ingredients and labelling,' said Henry Clover. 'There is also a role for dental teams and other healthcare professionals to help patients understand the effects of a high sugar diet on their health and help them make more informed choices.'
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SOFT DRINKS LEVY: Sugar tax now in place. Br Dent J 224, 565–566 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2018.323