Sugar tax a decision for incoming government – Varadkar

Minister reacts to imposition of levy in UK, says anti-obesity measures being pursued

A decision to impose a tax on sugary drinks would be a matter for the incoming government, said Minister for Health Leo Varadkar following a decision to adopt such a levy in the UK.

Britain's chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne announced the tax in a surprise move in his budget on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar noted the Minister had written to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan in 2015 seeking to have a sugar tax included in the budget.

"The Department of Finance chose not to include it in Budget 2016 but it has been adopted as Fine Gael policy and was included in the party election manifesto," he added.


"The Department of Health is continuing to pursue a number of initiatives aimed at reducing the levels of overweight and obesity in Ireland, including the proposal for a levy on sugar-sweetened drinks.

“The implementation of such a levy would of necessity be a matter for the incoming government.”


Mr Varadkar had sought a 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened drinks as a way of tackling obesity.

He believed the measure would result in a 1.25 per cent reduction in obesity, or about 10,000 fewer obese adults.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance also said further consideration of the proposal would be a matter for the incoming government.

“This matter was the subject of a pre-budget submission which, as is usual with all pre-budget submissions, was considered by the Minister for Finance in the context of the available resources,” said the spokesman.

The result an indepartmental examination of a tax on sugar is available on the Department of Finance’s website.

The UK tax – which will be brought in in two years’ time to give manufacturers time to drive down the sugar content of their drinks – is expected to raise in excess of £500 million (€630 million).

This will be used to double the amount of funding for sport in every primary school, with secondary schools encouraged to offer more sport as part of longer school days.

Drinks with 5g of sugar per 100ml will face a lower rate of tax while those with more than 8g per 100ml will face a higher rate. The rates of tax have not yet been set, but it is estimated it could add between 18p and 24p to the price of a litre of fizzy drink.

Shares in listed drinks firms dropped sharply on the London stock market after the announcement on Tuesday.

Additional reporting: PA