British doctors propose 20% tax on sugary drinks

The British Medical Association (BMA), a trade union for doctors in the United Kingdom, has suggested the British government places a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks in an attempt to discourage their consumption.
In a newly published report, the BMA said extra revenue generated by a tax should be used to make fruits and vegetables readily available in an attempt to make healthy options consumers’ default choices.
“Doctors are increasingly concerned about the impact of poor diet, which is responsible for up to 70,000 deaths a year, and has the greatest impact on the NHS budget, costing ($9.3 billion) annually,” Sheila Hollins, BMA board of science chair, said in a news release.
“We know from experiences in other countries that taxation on unhealthy food and drinks can improve health outcomes, and the strongest evidence of effectiveness is for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages,” Hollins added. “If a tax of at least 20 percent is introduced, it could reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by around 180,000 people.”
Healthier options readily available 
The public health expert went on to say the majority of the UK population, and low-income households in particular, are not eating enough fruit and vegetables. Financial steps could subsidize the price of produce, which has increased by 30 percent since 2008.
“This is an important way to help redress the imbalance highlighted previously between the cost of healthy and unhealthy products, which particularly impacts on individuals and families affected by food poverty,” Hollins said.
The UK’s Food and Drink Federation trade organization responded to the proposed measure by saying it would not change diets.
“We share the BMA’s concerns about the health of young people in the UK,” Ian Wright, director-general of the Food and Drink Federation, told BBC News.
The trade group has generally taken the position that its products are already taxed enough.
“Where additional taxes have been introduced they’ve not proven effective at driving long-term, lasting change to diets,” Wright said. “In recent years, calories in household foods and drinks have been gradually lowered through recipe reformulations, including sugar reductions, and changes to portion sizes.”
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