Bottled water drinkers could end up falling victim to the Government’s proposed new sugar tax, according to one of their former health advisers.

Professor Susan Jebb, who ran the Government’s public health programme until 2015, says that wording in the new proposal means that companies will be able to spread the cost of the new tax across their entire range of products.

Therefore, rather than choosing to solely increase the price of their soft drinks, companies could choose to spread the cost by increasing the price of other products such as diet drinks and bottled water.

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The sugar tax, which is set to be introduced in 2018, will charge companies based on the amount of sugar they put in their products, but the proposal does not set out any rules about how the soft drink makers should change their price structures.

Campaigners like Jebb want the new proposal to force the companies to make the price differentials clear for consumers in an attempt to get them to buy the healthier alternatives.

Speaking at Public Health England’s annual conference, she said:

What we really want is for the industry to pass on [the] levy to customers to introduce a clear price difference at the point of choice. We think that will create the biggest incentive to choice to consumer behaviour.

However, the planned rules for the tax do not specify that companies should act in this manner, so they are free to charge whatever they want. This could, according to Jebb, see them increase the prices on all of their products as a way of raising the extra money needed to pay the levy.

Therefore, even those who just buy bottled water and avoid soft drinks altogether could be hit in the pocket by the new tax.

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