A tax on sugary drinks has received the backing of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which says the legislation can lower consumption and reduce obesity. 

According to the new report from WHO, a 20% increase in the retail price of sugary drinks is expected to result in significant reductions in consumption of such products, while also helping to reduce the number of people affected by type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.

Dr Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Department for the Prevention of noncommunicable diseases, said: “Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes. If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives. They can also cut healthcare costs and increase revenues to invest in health services.”

A number of countries have taken fiscal measures to protect people from unhealthy products, these include Mexico, which has implemented an excise tax on non-alcoholic beverages with added sugar, and Hungary, which has imposed a tax on packaged products with high sugars, salt or caffeine levels.

The British Soft Drinks Association has been calling a move against the sugar drinks tax, claiming the move could put hundreds of jobs at risk, while soft drinks manufacturers are already taking “big steps” in reducing sugar in their products.

Gavin Partington, BSDA Director General, said: “The latest NDNS [National Diet and Nutrition Survey] data shows a decline of over 8% in teenagers’ sugar intake from soft drinks between 2012 - 2014. Soft drinks companies have taken significant action to help their consumers reduce their sugar intake since the NDNS data was collected over two years ago.

“Independent analysis confirms that sugar intake from soft drinks has been reduced by over 16% in the last four years. We set ourselves a 20% calorie reduction target by 2020. It seems odd to punish progress with a tax which risks job losses and higher prices for consumers when our efforts are clearly having an impact. Surely a review of this policy must now be undertaken.”