Cineworld criticised for charging UK sugar tax

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Cinema chain Cineworld is adding 20p to the cost of a regular Pepsi drink in all of its outlets, in a move it says is to encourage customers to try healthier alternatives.

However, the price increase has led to complaints to the Island’s consumer watchdog, which has criticised the decision to charge a UK tax in Jersey, where it does not apply, as ‘disappointing’.

It is understood that a number of other businesses in the Island have also increased prices in a similar fashion since the UK sugar tax was introduced in April.

Last year, the Health Department said it was considering what form the sugar tax could take in Jersey but that it was hoped something similar to the UK scheme could be introduced. However, as yet no such tax has been proposed or introduced.

A spokeswoman for Cineworld said that the move was intended to encourage customers to try healthier alternatives to a regular Pepsi, which has a particularly high sugar content.

‘An additional charge of 20p will be made for customers choosing Pepsi Regular (full sugar) only, across all Cineworld cinemas in the UK, Ireland and Jersey,’ she said.

‘This is part of Cineworld’s ongoing effort to encourage our customers to try sugar-free or other alternatives without removing customer choice.

‘It’s also worth noting that this additional charge is discountable to our Unlimited customers and does not affect any of our other drinks.

‘Customers are also welcome to bring cold food and non-alcoholic drinks with them to the cinema.’

However, Anne King, executive officer of the Jersey Consumer Council, said: ‘We are very disappointed that Cineworld have made the decision to pass on what is a UK tax to Jersey consumers,’ she said.

‘The only silver lining is that they have said that customers are allowed to take in their own food and drink into the cinema.’

Mrs King said that the council had been monitoring the prices of products which would potentially be affected by the sugar tax since it was introduced in April.

‘What we are seeing otherwise is that manufacturers are amending their products, either by reducing their sugar content or offering different products,’ she said.

The sugar tax was introduced in the UK in April to encourage customers away from unhealthy high-sugar products, including many fizzy drinks, and to help reduce levels of obesity.

Drinks with a sugar content of more than five grammes per 100 ml are taxed at 18p per litre and 24p for drinks with eight grammes or more.

The move has seen many businesses which sell sugary products, including fast food chains such as Burger King and McDonalds, criticised for passing the cost of the tax on to their customers in the UK.

Other firms, such as Barrs who manufacture Irn Bru, have responded by reducing the sugar content of their products.

A spokesman for SandpiperCI, which operates the Burger King franchise in the Channel Islands, said that the firm had not increased prices in the Island due to the sugar tax in any of its outlets.

He added that UK manufacturers were required to provide a retrospective rebate for the sugar tax to any non-UK businesses which they supply.

KFC have also not increased their prices in the Island, a spokesman confirmed.

Representatives of Pizza Hut were contacted for comment, as well as the Health Department and the Treasury Minister.

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