In 1795, the Duty on Hair Powder Act saw the taxation of hair powder and consequently marked the decline in fashion of the powdered wigs that were very much en vogue. Is taxing sugary drinks a crafty way for the government to financially benefit from a popular product such as the doomed hair powder, or is it in actuality a sensible tax that could dictate a trend with a positive impact?

A worldwide study from 2015 estimated that sugary drinks were responsible for 184,000 deaths a year. This includes: 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 form cardiovascular disease and 6,450 form cancers. These numbers alone indicate the urgent need for intervention. In effect sugary drinks provide a quick fix of empty calories, and ultimately, if abused, long lasting consequences.

Merely introducing a tax may seem to be an apathetic approach to issues concerning diet and obesity, however, sugary drinks are part of a diet that can very easily be changed without negative financial implications or the need for a healthier alternative. It is estimated that the tax will raise revenues of £520 million, which is to be spent on increasing primary school children’s access to sport in England. As it stands, children and teenagers are the biggest consumers of sugar filled soft drinks; an easily influenced target market of sitting ducks waiting for their next sugar fix or rebelling against their parents’ offers of ‘fruit or yogurt’ with the covert hiss of a snapped ring pull.

 

Companies should hold a moral obligation to reduce the amount of lethal sugar used in their products.

Already, there appears to be the rumblings of change as the tax has encouraged companies to take active measures in reducing the amount of sugar their drinks contain. For children over 11 the recommended daily maximum of sugar intake stands at 30g, a 330ml can of Coca-cola exceeds this limit by 5g; offering up 7 surreptitious tea spoons of sugar. If a tax has the persuasive power to instigate change within the lucrative soft drinks industry then surely this is a positive step forwards in helping to tackle the ever expanding issues of child obesity, before health complications such as diabetes arise.

One could argue that if children are the main consumers and therefore casualties in later life, companies should hold a moral obligation to reduce the amount of lethal sugar used in their products. Although, if the risk of financial loss incites more action than the attached moral implications of contributing towards childhood obesity then the worth of the sugar tax is proven.

Hopefully, as the tax on hair powder saw the declined use of wigs, the tax on sugar will lead to much needed health reform. The leading light (unsurprising due to its neon appearance) is Irn Bru, which welcomes a new recipe with almost half the calorie content. In short, companies are cutting the sugar content in their fizzy drinks like it’s going out of fashion.