The public is being told lies about the role of soft drinks in causing obesity, a leading industry figure has claimed as he branded the sugar tax a political move to cover up a bad Budget.

Jim Fox, associate director – public affairs for Coca-Cola European Partners, said the tax was not about reducing obesity: it was a political measure by former chancellor George Osborne to hide a bad Budget.

“It won’t change behaviour – it didn’t with cigarettes. The chancellor said he won’t pass the tax on to consumers, because it would cause inflation, but it’s going to cost our industry £520m a year. If we don’t pass it to consumers, who will pay it?” he said.

Speaking to the NFRN national council in Dublin on Tuesday, Mr Fox warned he expected the tax on soft drinks to be extended to other sugary products such as juice, confectionery and snacks. Retailers are being made the victims of the political attack on manufacturers, he added.

“They are trying to make us go the way of the tobacco companies,” he said.

Eastbourne retailer Mike Garner said: “This isn’t about obesity, it’s just the chancellor raising money.”

He said the proposed tax would add 10p to the price of a 330ml can, and 58p to a 2l bottle, 15p to a can of Monster energy drink, and would encourage grey market imports.

Plans for the NFRN day of action on 16 September in support of the Face the Facts, Can the Tax campaign are at an advanced stage.

An action pack containing briefing notes, a draft letter to be sent to MPs, postcards, and an A4 window poster, will be sent to 50,000 retailers within the next few days.

NFRN head of public affairs Adrian Roper urged members to support the campaign, designed to highlight the potential loss of business the tax would cause the soft drinks industry, and small shops in particular.