In April, the Government will be introducing a 14p tax on 500ml bottle of high-sugar drinks and 58p on two-litre bottles, in a bid to steer customers towards cheaper, lower-sugar drinks.
But Carol Williams, Principal Lecture and public health nutritionist, questioned students 16 to 24 years and found that they decided what to buy in a meal deal based on getting a bargain – choosing the more expensive items.
With the sugar tax, full-sugar drinks will start to cost more than low or no sugar versions, this might perversely make them a better value choice within a meal deal. She said: “Students want to maximise the cost benefit of the deal, even though they are often aware of the health aspects.”
In an article in The Conversation, the news site written by academics, Carol Williams said the revenue which the sugar tax was expected to bring in for the Government has been cut from £520m to £385 and could be even lower because most manufactures have lowered the sugar content in drinks. But popular brands such as Coke Classic and Pepsi remain unchanged with equivalent of 14 cubes per 500ml bottle.
She said promotions such as Meal Deals could mess with the basic principle of the sugar tax, that high sugar drinks cost more. “So now it’s over to the retailers and outlets selling meal deals to decide what to do. They have three options: add 14p to the price of the meal deal when a full-sugar drink is chosen, take sugary drinks that are taxed out of the meal deal, or do nothing and risk encouraging people to choose the full-sugar version, undermining everything PHE is trying to achieve.”