London wants to tax soft drinks

The British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has announced a new tax on sugary soft drinks aimed at combatting child obesity. What can the sugar tax accomplish?

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Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

Exercise more effective than sugar tax

The Swedish government is also considering introducing a sugar tax. The liberal daily Göteborgs-Posten is against the idea:

“The real question regarding the sugar tax is not whether it can reduce consumption of sweets and soft drinks (which experts contest) but whether it is the state's job to decide what people put in their mouths. Of course the state must set certain limits. But must it really hike up the price of sweets for families with children? If the politicians really want to combat obesity, there are other things they can do. Physical education, for example, should be given more prominence. ... Rather than taxing Easter eggs, politicians should make sure that children and adolescents get enough exercise.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Netherlands also needs sugar tax

The Netherlands should follow Britain's example, the centre-left daily De Volkskrant believes:

“Health Minister Schippers argues that such matters are above all the responsibility of parents. And she's right. But why shouldn't the state lend a helping hand - as it has been doing for decades with alcohol and tobacco? Of course not with a ban, but with a targeted tax policy. ... Instead, Schippers has long been relying on unwritten agreements and commitments on the part of the industry which have produced few concrete results. And when taxes were implemented recently once again not long ago, the government set the tax on mineral water at the same level as for soft drinks. No one apart from the finance minister benefits from such pointless levies. There are smarter - and healthier - ways of going about these things.”

The Times (GB) /

British will eat healthier food

Government intervention is justified here because it will lead to healthier consumption practices, the conservative daily The Times contends:

“Markets only work properly when consumers are informed, but millions of parents, let alone children, do not know that fruit juices, smoothies, milkshakes and the Orwellian-sounding 'enhanced water' drinks are often loaded with sweetness that kills. Just as measures to tax and restrict tobacco changed public attitudes and encouraged important innovations such as life-saving e-cigarettes, so a progressive public policy assault on sugar might produce an awareness that poor diet makes a greater contribution to ill health than sloth, alcohol and tobacco combined.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Osborne wants to sugarcoat national budget

The tax on sugar in soft drinks is hypocritical, the conservative daily the Financial Times argues:

“Coke and Pepsi are a problem, apparently. But it seems that sugar lumps in tea or coffee are not. Neither are cartons of chocolate milk. ...All these forms of sugar will continue to reach our taste buds free of a sugar tax. ... It's clear enough why the chancellor has opted for this approach. He wants to blame large companies, not voters, and hide the fact that ultimately consumers will pay the tax. A broad-based tax on sugar itself would have been simpler, braver and far more effective. But Mr Osborne wanted his Budget to leave voters with a sweeter taste in the mouth.”