Cambridge Professor slams plans for fizzy drinks taxes

Victoria Akinsowon 7 November 2013

Plans for a 20 per cent tax hike on fizzy drinks have been met with scepticism by Cambridge Professor of Clinical Biochemistry and Medicine, Sir Stephen O’ Rahilly.

According to research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), a 20 per cent tax on fizzy drinks would reduce the number of obese adults in the UK by approximately 180,000 over the next decade. The research, conducted by experts at the Universities of Oxford and Reading, suggests that the implementation of a tax on sugary drinks would reduce their consumption by 15 per cent. This would lead to a 1.3 per cent decrease in the overall levels of adult obesity.

However, O’Rahilly expressed his doubts about the findings, stating that “taxation of specific foods is likely to be currently politically undeliverable in most democracies.” Instead, he advised “major companies to switch to the aggressive promotion and marketing of less harmful versions of their products.”

As the biggest consumers of fizzy drinks, young people aged 16-29 would be the most affected by taxation, though the effect of such a tax remains uncertain:  “I’m not sure a tax on fizzy drinks would stop me drinking them to be honest,” said Luke Smith, a first-year student. “Unless the prices went up significantly I’d probably still buy them regardless.” It is estimated that the tax would increase the price of a 300 millilitre can of fizzy drink by 12p.