WHO backs ‘sugar tax’ campaign to tackle obesity

Sugar in drinks is associated with the risk of obesity. Picture: PA
Sugar in drinks is associated with the risk of obesity. Picture: PA
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has joined those calling for a “sugar tax” on soft drinks in a major report on childhood obesity.

The move will undoubtedly increase pressure on the government as it prepares to issue its own strategy for tackling obesity in the UK.

The new report says there is strong evidence that a sugar tax can work alongside other measures, such as tackling big portion sizes and unclear food labelling.

It also calls for a crackdown on the marketing of junk food to children and for schools to ban the sale of unhealthy food. Calling for a sugar tax, WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity said: “Overall, the rationale for taxation measures to influence purchasing behaviours is strong and supported by the available evidence.

“The commission believes there is sufficient rationale to warrant the introduction of an effective tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. It is well established that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with an increased risk of obesity.”

The report said those on low incomes and their children “have the greatest risk of obesity in many societies and are most influenced by price”.

David Cameron has said he does not see the need for a sugar tax, although his position is believed to have shifted recently.