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LONDON, Jan 18, 2016:

A sugar tax could be introduced in English hospitals in a move to tackle obesity that the National Health Service (NHS) said on Monday could raise up to £40 million (RM251 million) a year.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said that the levy on high-sugar drinks and snacks sold in hospital vending machines and cafes could be introduced by 2020, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper.

“We will be consulting on introducing an NHS sugar tax on various beverages and other sugar-added foods across the NHS,” he said.

“By 2020, we’ve either got these practices out of hospitals or we’ve got the equipment of a sugar tax on the back of them,” he added.

NHS England did not say at what rate the tax would be set, but medical groups and health charities want it to be 20%.

The health administrator said that bad diet had now overtaken smoking as the country’s main cause of lifestyle-linked illnesses.

“Smoking still kills 80,000-plus people a year, smoking is still a huge problem. But it turns out that diet has edged ahead,” he said.

“All of us working in the NHS have a responsibility not just to support those who look after patients but also to draw attention to and make the case for some of the wider changes that will actually improve the health of this country,” he added.

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