21 May 2015

More than 30 million Brits could support calls for a tax on sugary drinks, a new poll has revealed.

The new survey also reveals around half the population support calls for a tax on fatty and sugary foods, perhaps unsurprising considering the United Kingdom has some of the worst levels of obesity on Western Europe1.

Health concerns appear to be a priority for many, especially following the election. The same research also discovered more than one in three (37 per cent) say treating the big five killers – cancer, heart disease, strokes, respiratory and liver disease – is the area of the NHS they are most concerned with2.

The survey, carried out by oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation, is the first to assess the public’s potential support for the taxes, all of which health experts believe would go a long way to addressing current and future levels of health in the UK.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, hopes the research can act as a springboard for further government action.

Dr Carter says: “The increase in consumption of sugary drinks is one of the key reasons for dental decay, particularly in children. By proposing the introduction of a duty on sugary drinks, there are numerous benefits. There will be an inevitable reduction in consumption and benefits for both general and dental health, and the financial aspect will appeal to many decision-makers in the health industry.

“The cost of poor diet has a profound effect on our health. In the UK more than two thirds (60 per cent) of adults are overweight or obese. This is contributing to a growing social and economic burden of chronic disease including cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes, both of which have also been linked to poor oral health.

“Poor oral health is of great concern, not least due to the growing number of general health conditions it has been linked to. Implementation of a tax on sugary drinks as well as sugary and fatty foods could lead to oral health benefits for generations to come.”

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children's Food Campaign, said: “A duty on sugary drinks of 20 pence per litre would be the most practical and effective way of tackling a significant source of unnecessary calories and sugar in children and young people's diets. Mexico, France and Hungary have already introduced a sugary drinks duty, and their citizens are reaping the benefits. In this country, CitizensUK, trade unions and dozens of other organisations all support a duty.  Our politicians can no longer hide behind the idea that it wouldn't be popular, or is an untried policy.”

The results have been released during National Smile Month, the nation’s annual reminder of how to establish and maintain good oral health.  The campaign, the largest of its kind in the UK, takes place from 18 May to 18 June and is sponsored by Wrigley, Invisalign and Oral-B.


1. British Dental Health Foundation (2015) National Smile Month Survey: ‘In principle, would you supports calls for a tax on?’, UK.

In principle, would you support calls for a tax on: (yes)
Number of people Percentage (%)
Sugary foods 973 48.53
Fatty foods 990 49.38
Sugary drinks  1101 54.91

2. British Dental Health Foundation (2015) National Smile Month Survey: ‘Which of these areas of the NHS concerns you the most?’, UK.

Which of these areas of the NHS concerns you the most?
Number of people Percentage (%)
A&E waiting times  352 17.56
Cancer waiting times  312 15.56
GP waiting times  397 19.8
Dentistry 210 10.47
Treating the big five killers  734 36.61