Leisure centres in Sheffield are to be the first in the UK to impose a ‘sugar tax’ on fizzy drinks in a bid to curb rising rates of obesity.
A 20p charge is being levied on all drinks with added sugar sold in cafés and vending machines at Sheffield International Venues’ facilities across the city.
The group – run by the Sheffield City Trust charity – operates 11 venues including Ponds Forge, Hillsborough Leisure Centre, iceSheffield, Beauchief Golf Course, Concord Sports Centre and the English Institute of Sport.
A minimum of £25,000 generated by the charge will go towards health schemes, says SIV, which has pledged to reinvest ‘every penny’ in obesity and diabetes prevention programmes for young people.
A Government tax on the soft drinks industry aimed at high-sugar products was announced by the former chancellor, George Osborne, in his Budget in March. The move was backed by health experts, and the most high-profile supporter has been TV chef Jamie Oliver.
Oliver has brought in a sugar levy at his restaurants.
Writing in this week’s Sheffield Telegraph, SIV’s chief executive Steve Brailey said he thought the new charge – which comes into force next Monday, July 25 – was a bold but necessary move.
“Obesity is a major issue in Sheffield, with more than half of all adults obese or overweight, and this is contributing to an alarming rise in Type 2 Diabetes,” he said.
“Unlike a chocolate bar, cake or bag of crisps, drinks are not automatically seen as a treat and people who drink them tend to have them every day.
“Some of these drinks are incredibly high in sugar with no nutritional benefits. A typical can contains enough sugar - about nine teaspoons - to take someone over their recommended sugar intake in one hit.
“By introducing the sugar tax, we hope to shift customer demand from fizzy to healthy alternatives.”
The levy is being backed by Greg Fell, Sheffield’s director of public health.
“People can improve their health by cutting down on the amount of sugar they eat and drink. Small changes can make a big difference,” said Mr Fell.
“I think it’s great that SIV is trying something new and will be reinvesting money into new health projects.”