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UK’s sugar tax hits the sweet spot

BMJ 2021; 372 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n463 (Published 10 March 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n463

Linked Research

Changes in soft drinks purchased by British households associated with the UK soft drinks industry levy

  1. Alexandra Jones, research fellow1,
  2. Jason H Y Wu, associate professor1,
  3. Kent Buse, professor2
  1. 1The George Institute for Global Health, UNSW, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2The George Institute for Global Health, Imperial College, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: A Jones ajones{at}georgeinstitute.org.au

Consumption of sugar from soft drinks falls within a year

Excess consumption of free sugars is a major contributor to diet related diseases, including tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.1 Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) provide a substantial source of free sugars in the global diet yet offer no nutritional benefit, making them a reasonable target for public health action.234 The World Health Organization recommends that governments implement taxes on SSBs as part of a comprehensive policy response,5 and around 50 jurisdictions worldwide do so.6

The UK soft drinks industry levy was at the forefront of progressive policy design when announced in 2016. Targeted at manufacturers, its tiered structure imposes higher taxation on products with higher sugar content, providing motivation to reformulate to reduce sugar levels.

Now fresh evidence shows it is working exactly as intended.7 In a linked paper, Pell and colleagues(doi:10.1136/bmj.n254) report a reduction in sugar purchased in soft drinks one year after implementation of the levy, but …

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