So now they want to tax sugar? Are you kidding me? I completely understand what the government is trying to do; they desperately need a strategy against the rise of obesity. Obesity is currently having devastating effects on the population through diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But is taxing sugar really the way to go about it? I’m completely against the government putting undue tax on us, once again, without a well-rounded understanding of the problem. Surely the battle should be against our ‘Obesogenic Environment’ (I will talk about this term a little bit more later in the blog).
I’m against the sugar tax for a number of reasons. It’s about freedom of choice – as much as it might be in our benefit to eat less sugar, we can’t have a situation where the people in power are dictating what we can and cannot choose to eat. The people who are likely to be hurt the most by the sugar tax are the poorest – should we really be targeting some of the most vulnerable people in our society? Studies have shown that those most prone to obesity are mostly the less well off, and I daresay those who are poorly educated – these are also the people for whom any price rise will hurt the most. So who is it that needs to change? The food industry of course. A sugar tax will do nothing but once again disproportionately hit those who need help the most, which is a common theme throughout public health strategy.
So here’s the deal: It would be better for the government to encourage, strongly encourage, the food industry to make better foods with less sugar. We all want the same thing: to decrease the amount of obesity in society. Poor diet leading to obesity has an overwhelming financial impact on the NHS as well as destroying the lives of families struck by disease or death. Ultimately I think it’s more important to educate society, especially people in more deprived communities. It is also critical to remember that physical activity and exercise is just as important in the fight against obesity. There is a multitude of factors at play here that one simple tax will do little to resolve.
Now to get back to this term of an ‘Obesogenic Environment’, which was coined by Swinburn in 1999. To break the term down, it simply means that our environment encourages people to eat unhealthily and to not do enough exercise. Putting a tax on sugar really doesn’t address the wider issue. If you look at a society, with the huge amount of calorific foods such as fried chicken, burgers and sugary drinks, it is equally important to look at the lack of physical activity leading to obesity. Society’s chronic sedentariness may be as a result of lack of green spaces, parks, the fact that we spend half our lives in cars or at our desks – maybe it’s time for the government to pour their time and resources into tackling this crisis rather than just slapping on another ineffective, unnecessary tax.