Why sugar taxes won’t halt the obesity crisis

Addiction of a white, crystalline powder is more widespread than most of us think. No, we are not talking about hard drugs, but sugar. The debate over whether or not to add a special ‘sugar’ tax has resurged in many parts of the West, not least in the UK. The latest obesity statistics are a harrowing read, but we can no longer turn a blind eye to this ticking public health time bomb. The number of people that are overweight or obese increased from 57.6 per cent to 67.1 per cent in men and from 48.6 per cent to 57.2 per cent in women since 1993. Something must be done, but what?

A proposed tax on sugar however is unlikely to yield the result that we need as people will continue to buy sweetened products. Extra taxes on fat food in Denmark were by and large a complete failure and it is likely that the same would happen with sugar. This would also shift the focus away from the individual towards the state, a development that would be regrettable.

At the end of the day, it is down to each individual to make an informed choice about what they might want to do – no government should decide whether or not we are able to eat sugar. The government should however push for stricter labelling that shows the added sugar content, giving the consumers the power to make up their mind. In the UK we should also push for a better food regime at our schools, actively promoting a healthier and more active lifestyle, both in the classroom and in the canteens.

Obesity is incredibly stigmatising, especially when one is younger, with many being bullied for it. Parents must remember this when they put their children on sugar-laden diets or cannot be bothered to cook proper food. This is where the change must start, at home. The government should only ensure that we know exactly what is in our food in a way that we can all understand. A sugar tax would only be a lazy and ineffective solution that would do nothing to avert the danger that obesity poses to our health and public services.


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John Lindberg 32 Articles
John Lindberg is a former policy adviser to Sir Jamie McGrigor MSP and a self-declared science geek. His main interests are energy and environmental issues, with a burning passion for nuclear power. He recently graduated with a First from the University of Glasgow, MA (Hons) in Politics.

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