Health promotion research group director Mike Rayner said at least a quarter of British adults are obese, and that is costing the health services billions of pounds of year every year. He called for a 12p tax on soft drinks, even bigger than the 2 cents tax introduced in France, claiming it would prevent several thousand deaths a year as people switched to healthier drinks.
But if everyone “Cut back” on the high-calorie, high-fat and high-sugar foods you’ll not only lose weight but also save money. So would adding 20% or so to the price of the junk foods really stop the people who eat them the most, and are the fattest, from eating them? Look at cigarettes – over many decades, duty on tobacco has been punishing for smokers. And yet they still found the cash to smoke. It wasn’t until smoking was actually banned in most places and people literally had to find ways to stop, that the number of smokers actually decreased.
I reckon Mr Cameron would be better off pursuing his other idea, which is to make fast food chains, supermarkets and food manufacturers reduce the high-calorie junk elements of the foods they sell. So far this is a voluntary scheme, though, and predictably many fast food companies such as McDonald’s and KFC haven’t signed up. A pity – because until the food industry is forced by law to tidy up its act, little will change, except we’ll get collectively fatter and fatter.
Should we tax curries, butter and other fatty foods to curb rising obesity? Denmark has already introduced what is believed to be the world’s first fat tax – a surcharge on foods that are high in saturated fat. Butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food are now subject to the tax if they contain more than 2.3% saturated fat.