London | Britain plans to impose a sugar tax in hospitals and health centres across England to help tackle the growing problem of obesity and expected to generate up to 40 million pounds a year. It would mean a 20 per cent tax on all sugary drinks and foods in National Health Service cafes by 2020, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens told ‘The Guardian’ .
It is hoped the tax would discourage staff, patients and visitors from buying sugary items. The move will make the NHS the first public body in the UK to bring in a sugar tax, and it will use the expected proceeds, between 20 million pounds and 40 million pounds a year, to improve the health of its own 1.3 million workers. NHS bosses will begin consulting on introducing the tax, which would be gradually enforced as catering and hospital shop contracts come up for renewal over the next three to five years.
We will be consulting on introducing an NHS sugar tax on various beverages and other sugar-added foods across the NHS, which would be enforced over time as contracts for food catering and the shops that are in the foyers of hospitals come up for renewal over the next three to five years over a rolling basis, Stevens said. By 2020, we’ve either got these practices out of hospitals or we’ve got the equipment of a sugar tax on the back of them, he said.
The NHS levy will be linked to the UK government’s forthcoming national childhood obesity strategy. The proposal comes days after Prime Minister David Cameron signalled that he was prepared to drop his opposition to a nation-wide sugar tax. In October last year, a report by Public Health England recommended a tax of between 10 and 20 per cent on high-sugar products as one of the measures needed to achieve a meaningful reduction in sugar consumption.
Bad diet has recently overtaken smoking as the biggest single cause of the 40 per cent of lifestyle-linked avoidable illness the service treats, the report said. Smoking still kills 80,000-plus people a year, smoking is still a huge problem. But it turns out that diet has edged ahead, Stevens said.
There has been growing concern about the damaging impact of sugar on health in the UK from the state of people’s teeth to type-2 diabetes and obesity. Government advisors recommend no more than 5 per cent of daily calories should come from sugar.
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