RSPH has condemned the latest in a series of delays to the government’s long-awaited childhood obesity strategy. Originally due in December 2015, the strategy will now not be published until the summer. RSPH has also expressed its disappointment that a sugary drinks tax is unlikely to feature in the government’s plans.
A ‘sugar tax’ was one of a number of measures called for by RSPH in its report on the childhood obesity crisis in November, and has the backing of many other expert public health bodies including Public Health England, the parliamentary Health Select Committee, and the Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies. Calls for the tax are backed by almost three quarters (73%) of RSPH members working in public health, alongside 55% of the public. Recent evidence from Cancer Research UK suggests a tax on sugary drinks could reduce obesity rates in the UK by 5% in 10 years.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “Childhood obesity is a time bomb on which the clock is ticking, set to wreck the future health of our children and the sustainability of our NHS. There can be no excuse for delay or prevarication when we know – and the government knows – what must be done, especially if those delays are for political reasons.
“It is hugely frustrating that the government seemingly remains deaf to the overwhelming weight of expert and public opinion behind the introduction of a sugary drinks tax, especially in light of recent evidence from Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum suggesting this could reduce obesity rates by five per cent in 10 years. While not a silver bullet, this could be a flagship measure which would strongly signal the government’s seriousness about tackling this problem – as it is, that seriousness remains in doubt.
“If there is no sugar tax, then the government must ensure it uses other levers to spur food and drink manufacturers to reformulate their products and improve their nutritional value, including through much tougher advertising regulation and a crackdown on multi-buys and price promotions for junk food.”