The campaign called GULP – Give Up Loving Pop – has been created by the Health Equalities Group, based in Liverpool, which is supported by the NHS and local authorities.
GULP also highlights links between the drinks and tooth decay and type 2 diabetes.
Sugar has been labelled the ‘new tobacco’ by some health experts, who warn it is fuelling a national obesity epidemic, particularly among children.
A number of campaigning organisations are supporting the idea of a tax on sugary drinks both to reduce consumption and raise money to support health and sports schemes for youngsters.
Recent research by the University of Liverpool claimed that added a 20p tax to the drinks would save thousands of children from diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
They argued such a levy would prevent 1,100 cases of cancer in London alone, as well as reducing the number of people who develop diabetes by 6,300 and cut the number of people suffering from coronary heart disease or strokes by 4,300.
Based on these figures, it seems tens of thousands of cases of disease could be prevented if the 20p per litre tax was adopted across the entire UK.
Over 60 organisations – including Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, British Dietetic Association, CitizensUK, Faculty of Public Health, Netmums and Unison – have already backed the campaign for a sugary drinks tax.
Supporters also include Rosie Boycott, who was appointed by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to run the London Food Board.
Soft drinks are the largest single source of sugar for children aged 4-10 years and teenagers.
A tax of 20p a litre would add around 7p to the price of a standard can of Coca-Cola or Pepsi.
Director of the GULP campaign, Robin Ireland, said: ‘Few people fully realise the harm that sugary drinks can do to your health.
‘As well as damaging your teeth, overconsumption of these drinks can lead to weight gain, type 2 diabetes and poor heart health.
‘Given the levels of overweight and obesity across the UK, in particular amongst youngsters, unless we start to take action on sugary drinks we will be storing up problems for future generations.
‘As sugary drinks manufacturers seem less-than-willing to inform the public about the health harms associated with overconsumption of their products we’ve launched our Gulp campaign to get the message across and take the fight to the manufacturers.’
He added: ‘With 40per cent of young people reportedly drinking three or more glasses of sugary drinks per day it is vital that we a send a message to Government about the damage that is being done to the health of our children and young people and the need for education on healthier alternatives.’
However, the director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, Gavin Partington, accused the campaign of ‘scaremongering.’
He said: ‘If these campaigners were genuinely interested in public health they would be seeking to educate all consumers about the importance of a balanced diet and physical exercise rather than erroneously targeting one product category and making claims not supported by the evidence.’
Soda is not good for you. The high-calorie, sugary drinks have been linked to obesity and a host of other health problems. Soda can be particularly dangerous to children, who can consume lots of calories quickly through colas and other pop without feeling full. And then there’s the dental toll — it doesn’t take a peer-reviewed study to tell you that drinking lots of sweetened soda isn’t great for your teeth.
But soda isn’t just water, corn syrup and carbonation — a can of Coke or Pepsi also contains chemical additives for coloring and flavoring. And according to one public health group, those additives could increase your chance of getting cancer.
That’s the message from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington-based consumer watchdog group. CSPI has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the “caramel coloring” that is used in Coke, Pepsi and other sodas, on the grounds that the chemicals are carcinogenic.
CSPI says the artificial brown coloring — which doesn’t have much to do with actual caramel, despite the name — is made by reacting corn sugar with ammonia and sulfites under high pressures and at high temperatures. (Just like Mom used to do it!) Those reactions produce the chemicals 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole — chemicals that government studies have found to cause lung, liver or thyroid cancer in lab rats or mice. “It’s a small but significant risk, and it’s the kind of thing that government agencies should deal with,” says Michael Jacobson, the executive director of CSPI.
Is Jacobson right? A 2007 study by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) found “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity of 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) in male and
female B6C3F1 mice based on increased incidences of alveolar/bronchiolar neoplasms,” otherwise known as lung tumors. The state of California has also concluded that 4-MEI is a carcinogen, and is in the process of crafting regulations that may require food and drinks containing significant levels of the chemical to bear cancer warnings.
According to California’s regulators, a level of more than 16 micrograms per day would pose a significant risk — meaning it could result in at least one excess case of cancer per 100,000 exposed people. Given that there are roughly 130 micrograms of 4-MI per 12-ounce can of soda — and given that the average American drinks 14 ounces of soda a day, with young men drinking far more — that would mean that most of us would be at some risk.
As a result, CSPI has been petitioning the FDA to change the name or ban the use of the chemicals in soda and other foods, or at least force manufacturers to put warning labels on their packaging. “We think industry can solve this problem,” says Jacobson. “They don’t want to put warning labels on their products.”
The soda industry, however, is fighting back. In a statement the American Beverage Association — an industry group that includes soda makers — denied that 4-MEI posed any danger to human health:
4-MEI is not a threat to human health. There is no evidence that 4-MEI causes cancer in humans. No health regulatory agency around the globe, including the Food and Drug Administration, has said that 4-MEI is a human carcinogen. This petition is nothing more than another attempt to scare consumers by an advocacy group long-dedicated to attacking the food and beverage industry.
In California a number of industry groups — including the American Beverage Association — have filed a lawsuit against state regulators to block efforts to list 4-MEI as a carcinogen:
The state agency’s decision does not reflect sound science and failed to follow its own regulations. Also, it did not take into account all the data available on the subject in this process.
It is possible that adding a large tax on sugary drinks might help the people of the United States to lose weight.
A study that was recently published has determined that it would help American lose weight should the tax was large enough.
However, even then the benefits would primarily be accrued by the middle class and be modest at best.
If the United Stated added a 40% tax to the price of sugary drinks such as sports drinks and sodas that were purchased in a retail store, it would reduce approximately 12 calories from the daily intake of beverages for the average person in the United States. This would translate into a person losing approximately 1 1/4 pounds.
Without doing all of the calculations, it turns out that a 20 % tax wouldn’t work as well as a 40% tax for discouraging the drinking of sugary drinks. Also, should the tax cover more kinds of sugary drinks, the reduction in caloric intake would be somewhat increased which would reduce the options for a substitution of a lower tax.
However, if such a tax could become politically palatable, the benefits from such a tax wouldn’t be advantageous for everybody. The study also determined that increasing the taxes on sugary drinks wouldn’t reduce the weight of the poorest of the wealthiest people in the United States significantly.
The idea of taxing junk food and sugary beverages is gaining some support in some political circles. However, it might be impossible to get public support for such taxes. Recently, a survey was conducted in which people in the United States were ask for their opinion a tax increase directed at sugary drinks.
Over 3,000 people or 51% if the people surveyed either opposed or strongly opposed such tax increases. Only about 1/3 of those surveyed were in favor of a tax increase.
However, there is the deficit to consider and one factor might be how much money the increased taxes might raise. It has been estimated that a tax of 40% on a variety of sugary drinks might gather over $2,500,000,000.
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