Blog: Hannah AbdullaCameron returns prospect of sugary drinks tax to UK headlines

Hannah Abdulla | 8 January 2016

The UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said he would not rule out the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks in the country in a bid to tackle obesity.

In a news conference in Hungary yesterday (7 January), Cameron said he did not want to put new taxes in place but said: "We do have to recognise that we face in Britain somewhat of an obesity crisis."

Downing Street had previously said Cameron "doesn't see a need for a tax on sugar".

New medical research from Cancer Research UK has warned 700,000 more Brits could develop cancer in the next 20 years due to obesity. It warned that by 2035 almost three in four adults will be overweight or obese.

"I think we need to look at this in the same was as we have looked in the past at the dangers of smoking on health and other health related issues. So that is my commitment. We need a fully worked up strategy, we shouldn't be in the business of ruling things out," Cameron said.

A spokesperson for Cameron, speaking to reporters following the event, added: "More needs to be done to address this challenge and that's not just for government to do. It does include the industry doing more to develop alternatives to products that are high in sugar. This is a growing problem. Work is ongoing on a government strategy and we will publish it shortly."

Action on Sugar, a UK pressure group that has called for fiscal intervention, tweeted this morning: "@DavidCameron_MP has NOT ruled out #sugartax. Is he finally listening?"

Food industry professionals will be watching developments closely. Broadly, campaigners believe a tax on soft drinks is more likely than on foods. Fiscal intervention does not naturally sit well with many Conservatives but, with rising support for a levy, particularly on soft drinks, and with growing recognition of the problem of obesity, the likelihood of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could be deemed to be higher than one would normally expect given the identity of the governing party in the UK.

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