Prof says we need Irn-Bru health tax

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It might be ‘Scotland’s other national drink’, but a leading health expert wants the Scottish Government to tackle obesity by taxing Irn-Bru.

Made in Cumbernauld, the ‘made from girders” drink is in the dock alongside dozens of other sugary drinks whose over-consumption is argued to be a major factor behind Scotland’s shocking record on obesity.

Professor Simon Capewell, chairman of clinical epidemiology, public health and policy at Liverpool University, argues there should be a special tax on the drinks.

He made the call – certain to infuriate regular Irn-Bru consumers – in a speech at the Edinburgh conference of the Royal College of Physicians.

In it he claimed obesity is a 21st century epidemic, and argued a tax on sugary drinks should be “a central component” of a campaign to stop the rise of obesity.

A third of Scottish adults are obese, according to recent figures, while around the same percentage of children are reckoned to be at risk of becoming obese.

Professor Capewell took care to point out that the Scottish Government has “an excellent track record” of bringing in new health laws.

He was clearly calling for a repeat of the sort of action which led to the smoking ban.

However the Scottish Govenrment appears to be in no hurry to bring in a stealth tax on Irn-Bru and similar drinks, a move wich would be hugely unpopular with consumers.

It has said it doesn’t want to “increase inequalities” or “adversely affect the Scottish food and drink industry” while considering the evidence on food taxes.

A spokesperson for A G Barr said: “We do not believe that an additional tax on soft drinks would be an effective way of tackling a specific health issue like obesity.

“We feel that the most effective measure is to promote balanced diets and healthy, active lifestyles through information and education.

“Currently more than one in three of all Irn-Bru drinks sold in Scotland are sugar-free and we provide nutritional information and clear guidelines on the sugar content of all of our products.

“We have reduced our average calorific content across our portfolio by 7.8 per cent surpassing our target of 5 per cent by 2016, which is part of our commitment to the UK Government’s Responsibility Deal calorie reduction pledge.

“We will continue to work towards further reductions.”