Middle-class latte drinkers will escape the sugar tax, while poor will pay
May 31, 2016, 1:21 pm

Takeaway coffees and smoothies can be laden with sugar - but they will not be taxed, campaigners say 

Sugary coffees and fruit smoothies enjoyed by the middle-classes will escape the sugar tax according to campaigners who are complaining that the levy is being unfairly aimed at the poor.

The TaxPayers` Alliance (TPA), a campaign for lower taxes, said the controversial sugar tax will be an arbitrary burden on the poor as it targets fizzy drinks which are disproportionately consumed by lower socioeconomic groups. 

The TPA claims wants the tax scrapped as it takes no account of the amount of sugar in drinks, as some beverages laden with sugar such as syrupy lattes and juices will be exempt.

A coffee or hot chocolate could contain more sugar than a fizzy drink

A comparison of 49 different drinks revealed some coffees and smoothies contain more sugar than fizzy drinks. For example a Starbucks signature hot chocolate with whipped cream with coconut milk has 11 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres but is exempt from the tax, even though Coca-Cola, which has 10.6 grams per 100 millilitres will be hit. 

TPA chief executive, Jonathan Isaby, said: "It is deeply concerning that the Government has given in to the pressures from the public health lobby and is pushing ahead with this regressive tax which will hit the poorest families hardest. The evidence shows that the sugar tax has nothing to do with the sugar content of products, so it is farcical to suggest that this will have any positive impact on people`s diet or lifestyle choices."

A Treasury spokesman said: "The soft drinks industry levy is a major step forward in our efforts to tackle childhood obesity. The levy will be charged on soft drinks because they are the main source of added sugar in children`s and teenagers` diets, many with no intrinsic nutritional value."

The sugar tax will come into force from April 2018, when soft drinks companies will pay a levy on drinks with added sugar.

FAQ | Sugar tax

What is the sugar tax?
A new £520m levy on sugar-sweetened drinks to combat child obesity

An official report says the NHS could save £15bn and almost 80,000 lives in a generation by weaning the public off its sweet tooth. Today`s children and teenagers are consuming three times the recommended level of sugar (adults fare almost as badly)

Why is it controversial?
Some people resent being taxed for something which causes no harm if eaten in moderation and they don`t want the `nanny state` interfering in their choices

How much will it be?
In his March 2016 budget, the Chancellor announced a new sugar levy on the soft drinks industry, to be introduced in 2018.

There will be two bands:

• One for total sugar content above 5g per 100ml

• And a second higher band for the most sugary drinks with more than 8g per 100ml

• Pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks will be excluded.

Is taxation the only solution?
No. In their sugar report, PHE also recommend:

A national programme to reduce sugar content in everyday food and drinks

Reducing price promotions of sugary food and drink

Banning high-sugar foods from supermarket till areas and the end of aisles

Clamping down on advertising sugary products on TV and online

New rules to reduce portion sizes

Could it actually work?
Similar taxes have worked in five other countries, with some methods reducing consumption of fizzy drinks by up to one quarter. A sugar tax on fizzy drinks in Mexico cut sales by 12% in its first year


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