On the eve of Budget Day, we revisit our stance on the Sugar Tax
The facts are stark. We’re eating too much sugar, and drinking too many sugary drinks, and it’s bad for our health. The average sugar intake is 12-15% of people’s energy intake instead of the recommended 5%. Empty calories in sugar are the cause of diabetes, tooth decay and weight gain, with related health problems. Eating too much sugar also puts pressure on the planet to produce more food than we actually need.
So we all need to take radical action to cut down on the sugary foods we eat. But why a sugar tax?
Poor diet is responsible for up to 70,000 deaths a year in the UK, and costs the NHS £6billion annually. Here in Oxford we all eat too much sugar, and it’s hard to say how much each individual person eats, but some of the health statistics in some parts of the city are pretty bad, and we need to make changes for the better. The life expectancy in some parts of our city is six years lower than in others, and that’s incredibly unfair.
In a step to address Oxford’s health gap, Health Plans are being launched in Blackbird Leys and other parts of the city, which will encourage people to get more active, make healthy food choices and spend more time enjoying the outdoors.
Of course people should be allowed to choose what they eat, but research from countries that have already taken action suggests that taxation can make people think twice about the sugary option. If a low sugar drink that’s otherwise identical is cheaper, I think that’s great.
Children’s Centres are a brilliant model of hearty, healthy eating, providing a nutritious cooked lunch without lots of sugary sweets and biscuits as an option. They give parents and carers the support and encouragement to make good healthy food choices, and set patterns for the youngest children to follow for the rest of their lives.
So here’s what I propose: a sugar tax that is ring-fenced and used to fund two things – the NHS and Children’s Centres.
Good Food Oxford is all about asking “how do we feed everyone in Oxford, forever?” We think good food is food that is healthy, affordable and sustainable.
A sugar tax would make the good food option comparatively cheaper, which would give people that nudge to think differently. And when people do choose to eat sugar, they would know some of their money would be going to vital health-giving services in their hospitals and communities.