The battle to contain the global obesity crisis stepped up a gear yesterday as American public health experts demanded a sugar tax on the country's most popular source of refreshment – sweetened carbonated drinks and fruit juices.*sigh*
At least these aren’t doctors, though no doubt, they’ll soon get in on the act:
In what is certain to become a world-wide debate on the use of economic sanctions to tackle obesity, a group led by academics from Yale and Harvard universities proposed a "cola war", with a 1 cent tax per fluid ounce on sweetened beverages, raising the price of the average can of cola by 15 to 20 per cent.In the middle of a recession. Great timing!
They say this would cut calorie consumption from drinks by a minimum of 10 per cent (enough to prompt weight loss) and contribute almost $15bn towards the health costs of obesity.Of course, this has ears pricking up over here, with the thought of a new tax bringing the usual subjects out of the woodwork:
"The reasons to proceed are compelling. The science base linking the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to the risk of chronic disease is clear.
Research suggests a tax... would have strong positive effects on reducing consumption. We believe that taxes on beverages that help drive the obesity epidemic should and will become routine," the experts say in the New England Journal of Medicine.
British nutrition specialists backed the move but said other economic measures, such as a tariff on sugar imports, could have the same impact but be less politically controversial.In other words, ‘Let’s hide this so the sheep don’t realise what we’re doing..!'
Naturally, this has also brought grinning homunculus Tam Fry out from under his stone to leap aboard the publicity bandwagon:
Tam Fry, spokesman for the UK National Obesity Forum, said: "We have got to start thinking very seriously about taxing unhealthy food and drink as part of the drive to improve the nation's health and cut obesity. The amount of sugar that goes into these soft drinks is staggering and it has a double whammy, increasing obesity and rotting teeth."Oh, do shut up!
If we’re looking at improving the nation’s health, getting rid of unelected, hectoring little munchkins like you would do wonders for the nation’s blood pressure…
Jack Winkler, professor of nutrition policy at London Metropolitan University, said: "I support this. It would be a massive public acknowledgement about the danger sugar poses to health."Eh…?
But he proposed raising the price of sugar permanently by reforming the world commodity markets. Imposing tariffs, which are invisible, would be much better than raising taxes, he said.
Help me out here, Jack. How is it possible to simultaneously describe something as ‘a valuable public acknowledgement’ while also declaring your desire to hide it from the public?
Update: Dick Puddlecote has a good post on this too.