A student campaign group – Brighton Students Against Sugar Tax – is claiming growing support ahead of a referendum at Brighton University.
The referendum, which is being organised by the students’ union, is in response to the introduction of a sugar tax at the university.
The result will directly affect whether the students’ union imposes the extra charge in its own outlets.
The campaigners also hope that a positive result will persuade university bosses to rethink the imposition of the extra charge on sugary drinks in official university outlets too.
Campaign founder Jeremy Gale has said that increasing the price on drinks at cafés and restaurants by about 14 per cent would “hit poorest students the hardest”.
He has previously criticised the university for failing to carry out a meaningful consultation with the 22,000 students affected by the tax – and for introducing the policy while students were away during the summer holidays.
This week the campaigners said that a former sabbatical officer and a current school rep had joined them in opposing the measure.
The former vice-president, campus development, Nathan Foley, said: “The sugar tax appeared last year during Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Rush documentary.
“It was a film full of suspect production values and hyperbole. I can’t believe how seriously this documentary was taken by the university and how they feel a regressive tax to fund education programmes is the resolution, especially since, in preceding years, the university has not given guidance to its students on healthy eating or delivered food education paid for out of the £26 million it has in the bank.
“We all need sugar in our diets. Let’s not be compliant with the sugar nannies.
“Making people with lower incomes disproportionately pay more for food and drink cannot be justified, more so given that we have already paid £9,000 a year to be educated by the uni.”
The campaign said that the university made a £7.7 million surplus last year and, with £26 million in the bank, should fund healthy eating awareness itself, including making more healthier options available on campus.
The campaign said: “With so much money at their disposal, a food education programme could be delivered that benefits not just students but also the local community.
“More than 300 students signed up to the campaign during freshers’ week and in the last few days a former SU officer and the current School of Applied Social Science Rep have added their voices to the campaign that continues to grow.”
Laurence Howell, School of Applied Social Science Rep, said: “While the university portrays with this campaign that they aim to make meaningful strides towards promoting healthier lifestyles among students, the regressive tax will raise a pittance and is another excuse for private education to take from ‘consumers’ rather than look in their own pockets.”
Campaign treasurer Callum Kennard said: “It is important to mention that with rising food prices and the abolition of student grants last year, it would appear selfish to impose a sugar tax when the university could more effectively raise awareness surrounding health.
“I’d urge students to spread the word about the sugar tax and to deliver a no vote in the referendum.”
Voting in the referendum is expected to take place in about three weeks’ time although the timetable is still being finalised.
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