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British Lawmakers Support a Tax on Sugar to Combat Obesity

Update Date: Nov 30, 2015 10:37 AM EST
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British lawmakers will back a tax on sugar in order to fight childhood obesity. They also want the government to start controlling how prices are promoted for "unhealthy food and drinks."

The members of parliament (MP) who are a part of the Health Committee said on Monday that there is evidence that certain programs and measures that "improve the food environment" are effective at combating childhood obesity. They cited Mexico as an example that a tax on sugary drinks can be effective. After the tax on sugary beverages was introduced in Mexico, the consumption rate fell by six percent.

The committee added that there should be stricter guidelines when it comes to marketing and advertising for food and drinks that are unhealthy based on their sugar content. The MPs did acknowledged that there is no one way to tackle obesity.

"One third of children leaving primary school are overweight or obese, and the most deprived children are twice as likely to be obese than the least deprived," said Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the committee, reported by Reuters. "A full package of bold measures is required and should be implemented as soon as possible."

Despite the MPs' support, a spokesperson for Prime Minister David Cameron stated that a sugar tax will mostly not be approved. The Prime Minister does not think that forcing people to pay an extra tax on specific items is "the right course of action." Instead Cameron will be introducing a new national strategy next year that will hopefully be effective at tackling childhood obesity.

The food industry has responded stating that a tax would be unfair to the consumers.

"No-one seems to have considered hard-pressed consumers in all this. Consumers already pay billions in VAT on food and drink," Ian Wright, the director general for the Food and Drink Federation, said. "As a result of the arbitrary new tax recommended by the committee, which, if introduced, would inevitably be increased year-on-year and extended to other foods, would leave consumers paying significantly more, every week, for the products they love."

Childhood obesity costs the nation about $7.6 billion (£5.1 billion) per year.

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