Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - OPINION -

WE EX­PECT to hear a mass of statis­tics pre­sented dur­ing the Bud­get, but there were some sur­pris­ing ones – about the amount of sugar con­sumed by chil­dren – when the Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer talked last month about chil­dren’s health and health care.

Our five-year-old chil­dren are con­sum­ing their body weight in sugar ev­ery year. Within a gen­er­a­tion, over half of all boys and 70 per cent of girls could be over­weight or obese, the health ex­perts pre­dict.

Obe­sity is a long term health prob­lem which can lead into can­cer, di­a­betes and heart dis­ease. The neg­a­tive im­pacts af­fect not only the health of the in­di­vid­ual but they also add up to a mas­sive £27bn cost to the UK econ­omy.

Drinks sweet­ened with sugar are a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to child­hood obe­sity. Another of those key facts from the Bud­get speech: a typ­i­cal can of cola will have nine tea­spoons of sugar in it. Some drinks may have the equiv­a­lent of 13. That can be more than dou­ble the rec­om­mended in­take of added sugar.

The Chan­cel­lor wants to see the drinks in­dus­try take ac­tion to re­duce this source of sugar in a child’s diet. What he pro­poses is called in the head­lines a ‘sugar tax’, but it is in fact a levy on the pro­duc­ers and im­porters of drinks with added sugar. It will be in­tro­duced over the next two years and it is de­signed to en­cour­age the man­u­fac­tur­ers to re­for­mu­late their prod­ucts, re­duc­ing the amount of added sugar and steer­ing con­sumers to lower sugar al­ter­na­tives. Con­sumer ed­u­ca­tion to re­duce por­tion sizes is also im­por­tant.

The levy is ex­pected to raise £520 mil­lion in its first year. Cru­cially, in England the money will be used to dou­ble the pri­mary school PE and sport premium to £320 mil­lion a year from Septem­ber 2017. This will help our schools to sup­port a health­ier and more ac­tive life­style for pupils.

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