THE BLOG

Why the Sugar Tax Is Great News

18/03/2016 17:01 GMT | Updated 19/03/2017 09:12 GMT

No one really likes paying tax and I haven't met anyone yet who enjoys sitting down to do their tax return. But to paraphrase Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, tax doesn't have to be taxing. Sometimes, it really is very simple.

Currently, one in five children enter primary school fat, but a massive one in three head off to secondary school fat. On top of this, we already have record levels of adult obesity and diet-related illnesses are costing the NHS around £10billion EVERY YEAR. That is a massive three times as much as the cost to the NHS of smoking. So why do we demonise tobacco for killing us, but not the food and drinks that do the same thing?

Children are getting far too many of their calories from sugars - on average three times the government's recommended amount.Sugary drinks contain 'empty calories' - one can typically provides nine lumps of sugar. There is simply no room for sugary drinks in our children's diet. They contribute nothing in nutritional terms.

In addition, eating and drinking sugary products is the biggest cause of tooth decay in children in the UK. Tooth decay affects almost one-third of five-year olds and is the number one cause of hospital admissions for that age group.

In fact, there has been a rise almost 10% in child hospital admissions for severe tooth decay in England over the last four years. Researchers have pointed to a strong correlation between area deprivation and the rate of tooth extraction.

Which is why I find it bizarre that one of the main arguments deployed against the sugary drinks tax is that it will hit the poorest hardest. Irrespective of how much income people have, how is it morally sound to keep the prices of dangerous food low? Powerful companies spend a lot of money each year advertising to us and selling us sugary drinks that are giving us diabetes and more. They put them in front of us all day in train stations, newsagents, even leisure centres.It is time for society to protect itself and our children.

We can do this by raising money to take action to safeguard our children's health. And I say that because that is what we have seen in our restaurant. Last September we joined forces with Jamie Oliver and introduced a 10p levy on drinks with added sugar. Together we thought we would raise £50k in a year, but I'm delighted to say that we hit that target after just five months and have given the money to the Children's Health Fund, who are going to fund small projects that improve children's access to drinking water.

But also, it looks like we've persuaded Leon customers to switch to healthier alternatives. While sales in sweetened drinks such as Coca Cola dropped, sales in our carrot, apple and ginger juice and water increased.

The reason we did this was to show what could be done if the Government implemented the sugary drinks tax on a national scale - not just that of one fast food chain. We wanted to show that we could use soft drinks to raise some money and help fix the problem they're causing.

So, I say well done George Osborne on introducing the sugar tax in the Budget. It's great news that the revenue raised with be spent on school sport. I'd love to see some of it spent on food education, but then, as the co author of the School Food Plan, I would say that, wouldn't I?

John Vincent is the CEO and co-founder of LEON