Health chiefs in Blackpool have welcomed government moves to introduce a sugar tax on fizzy drinks.
The resort, which has one of the worst records in the country when it comes to obesity, has led the way in calling for measures to curb the consumption of unhealthy drinks.
Back in 2013, Blackpool’s director of public health Dr Arif Rajpura said putting a tax on sugary drinks would help tackle the obesity timebomb.
In this week’s Budget, Chancellor George Osborne announced the introduction of a sugar tax from 2018 to give manufacturers time to change their products.
Coun Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s cabinet secretary, said: “This is a step in the right direction from the Government and one we have been campaigning for over many years.
“It has to be met with education though and we are working with our local schools and families to make sure that they are aware of just how unhealthy fizzy drinks are, as well promoting healthier alternatives such as water.
We need to stop making fizzy drinks the go-to choice for families and childrenCoun Graham Cain
“We need to stop making fizzy drinks the go-to choice for families and children.
“Part of that involves them being more expensive than the healthier alternatives but the other element is making families realise the eye-wateringly high amount of unhealthy sugars they contain, and just what that is doing to their children’s insides.
“We have recently become the first council in the country to sign up to a declaration on healthy weight, with one of the main goals being to introduce a sugar tax like this one.
“This is a positive move for Blackpool and shows that our strong arguments around fizzy drinks have been heard.”
In a report produced by Dr Rajpura in January this year, it was revealed obesity rates are increasing faster in Blackpool than the national average with approximately 83,500 adults being overweight, which is 72 per cent of the town’s population.
Just over a quarter of reception-age schoolchildren in Blackpool have excess weight compared to just over a fifth nationally.
Dr Rajpura warned: “High levels of sugar consumption, particularly in the form of sugary drinks, are increasingly being recognised as a key driver of obesity levels.”
But manufacturers say it is wrong to target fizzy drinks.
Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: “We are extremely disappointed by the Government’s decision to hit the only category in the food and drink sector which has consistently reduced sugar intake in recent years - down 13.6 per cent since 2012.
“We are the only category with an ambitious plan for the years ahead – in 2015 we agreed a calorie reduction goal of 20 per cent by 2020.”
Drinks below 5g of sugar per 100ml will be exempt from the tax as will fruit juices and milk-based drinks.