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12 March 2015 - The Guardian - Tax on sugary drinks could save NHS £15m a year, claims study

Sarah Boseley

Child health campaigners calculate duty on sweetened drinks could save £300m over 20 years and reduce number of cases of diabetes by 50,000.


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A sugary drinks tax could save the NHS up to £300m over 20 years, according to campaigners, who say costs would be slashed by the reduction in diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer.

The Children’s Food Campaign, with the help of aLiverpool University academic, has produced a tool to calculate the potential savings to the health service in any area of the country. It is based on the assumption of a tax of 20p per litre on sugar-sweetened drinks such as colas and lemonades.

There is increasing support for a tax on sugary drinks from public health experts. In June, Public Health England produced a document looking at options for reducing the nation’s sugar intake, which did not rule out the option of a tax.

Several countries including France have introduced a tax on sugary drinks, it said, but there have been no real evaluations of the impact so far. “We plan to make a more detailed assessment of emerging evidence around the effectiveness or otherwise of fiscal options to support sugar reduction and dietary health,” said the report.

The calculations, by Brendan Collins, a research fellow in health economics at Liverpool University, suggest that the NHS in England would save £15m a year. There would be 50,000 fewer cases of diabetes over 20 years and 9,000 bowel cancer cases would be prevented, says Collins. He also claims there would be 33,000 fewer strokes and heart attacks.

“Current taxes on foods are a mess, and don’t support people choosing healthier options,” said Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign. “A 20p per litre sugary drinks duty would save lives and money across England, and ease the pressure on NHS services locally. It is a logical, proportionate and effective measure.

“Using the revenue to set up a Children’s Health Fund, paying for programmes to improve children’s health and protect the environment they grow up in, would also ensure that this was a progressive measure, benefiting families in poverty and on low incomes.