"I do have fizzy drinks. You can’t avoid them, they are part of home and social life."
UK’s chancellor, George Osborne, announced the introduction of the Sugar Tax in his 2016 Budget.
This tax will be a levy on sugary drinks and will generate revenue of 18-24 pence per litre for the UK government, targeted to raise about £520 million.
The strategic aim of the tax is to raise the awareness of the high levels of sugar in soft drinks and to curb health issues like obesity in children.
The money raised from the tax, shall be used to fund more healthy activities and sports in schools.
The tax, “which we expect to be passed entirely onto the price paid by consumers,” said the statement, will be affecting the public directly.
A range of very popular drinks will be affected by the sugar tax.Two bands will dictate the tax depending on the level of sugar in the drink.
The higher band tax of an additional 24p will be on drinks with more than 8g sugar per 100ml and the lower band tax of 18p will apply to drinks with more than 5g sugar per 100ml.
The tax is most likely to apply to the plethora of fizzy drinks on the market and will be exempt from pure fruit juices and milk-based products.
So, how will this sugar tax impact British Asians?
Well with a diet which is notorious for sugar and sweet things from mithai (Desi sweets) to regular 2 litre bottles of fizzy drinks in homes, at parties and functions, it will be an interesting challenge.
Soft drinks are big business in India, Pakistan and other nearby countries so drinking habits brought over by early migrants are difficult to shift.
With earlier generations being brought up on the likes of Coke, Pepsi, Fanta and other drinks, educating them to drink less sugar needs good communication and awareness.
Gurjit, a grandparent, says:
“When we were young, we use to get pop delivered to our homes. There use to be no labels of any kind. It was just a great tasting drink, which we had lots of. Especially with dinner.”
Jas, a second generation British Asian, says:
“I do have fizzy drinks. You can’t avoid them, they are part of home and social life. I had them from a young age and can’t just give them up. I’ll just pay more when it’s taxed.”
In the budget speech, the chancellor stated that five-year old children are consuming their body weight in sugar every year and experts predict that within a generation, obesity would be present in over half of all boys, and 70% of girls.
The responsibility to educate young people about health risks of sugar is ultimately a parental duty and with so much information available today, there should be no excuse.
Sheela, a mother of two, says:
“I limit all sugar intake for my kids, especially drinks. They only have sweets as a treat and I watch what they eat at school. But the problem comes with family, especially, elders, they just give fizzy drinks and sweets without realising the impact.”
Ashok, a father of three, says:
“We have to change our ways. We know more now, and I think the tax will help us think about drinking less sugary drinks. There are way too many soft drinks available now than the past, and they all contain some kind of sugar.”
The generation gap is a problem. Educating older generations about the dangers of sugar is not easy. They are set in their ways. Therefore, it will mean that new generations will need to be more vigilant.
Meena, a student, says:
“I do have soft and drinks but usually more when I am out than at home, especially at fast food places. I have no idea how much sugar I have. So the sugar tax could make me think twice.”
With sugary drinks being part of the offers available from fast food outlets, reducing the intake needs to be shared responsibility. But that is not good business, therefore, it is very unlikely, take-out joints will be happy about the tax or want to lose what business they have from soft drinks.
Sayeed, a fast-food owner, says:
“This sugar tax is not good news. It means our customers will have to pay more for their drinks and means we have to increase prices too.”
Mr Gill, a shop-owner, says:
“Drinks cannot be tasty without some kind of sugar. Why can’t they do this another way and leave the choice to the customer, to drink or not to drink.”
Many British Asians have soft drinks because they do not drink alcohol due to religious or cultural reasons.
Kully, an office worker, says:
“I don’t drink alcohol, so soft drinks are the only option when I want something nice to drink. So an increase in price is not welcomed by me at all.”
With drinks being endorsed by celebrities and sports stars such as Coke and Lucozade, young people are influenced by them. Also, some of these drinks contain so much sugar that even exercise is negated by the calories they contain.
Harsh, a regular gym goer, says:
“I use to drink a lot of Lucozade but when I found out how much sugar it contained, I reduced it and swapped it for simple water. This really helped my workouts and weight loss.”
Drinks & Sugar Facts
- A sports or energy drink can contain over 26g of sugar.
- Drinking a 600ml full sugar drink everyday results in 26kg of sugar.
- Globally 1 in 10 children are obese.
- One can of soft drink every can result in 6.75kg in weight gain
- Sugary drinks contribute to diseases like diabetes, obesity and glaucoma
Osborne was clear in his statement that future health was a driver for the sugar tax and said:
“I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation: I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing.”
Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, is all well-known for his campaigns for healthier eating amongst the young. He said:
“If you analyse what George has done, which I think is quite brilliant, he’s given them enough time to reformulate. He’s also done it in bands, and on the upside, for parents and kids in Britain, this is over £500m pounds into primary schools across Britain.”
With the tax coming into force in 2018, it gives the drinks companies time to reduce sugar in their drinks and attract lower band taxing or none in some cases. However, for consumer the tax will still be applied.
For British Asians, it is going to be about raising awareness and understanding of how sugar impacts health long term. This responsibility goes across all communities, to improve the health of future generations.