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Should there be a sugar tax?

In an attempt to combat the growing obesity epidemic, Mexico recently approved a sales tax on sugary drinks.
Could taxing sugar and other health damaging foods be an effective way to reduce our rapidly expanding waistlines? And if so, should other countries follow suit?
Is it reasonable to treat sugar and junk foods like other harmfull and addictive drugs such as tabacco and alcohol? Do they deserve such bad press or are we simply passing on the blame for our own inability to take responsibility for our health?
Would such a tax be effective anyway? Or would it simply be an infringement to our freedom of choice and another way for governments to make money?


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    Jan 22 2014: No there are always unintended consequences.

    In the US they have put tariffs on foreign sugar for many years. The unintended consequence has been that it is cheaper for the sugar consuming industries to use corn syrup instead. This has led to a depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer under the farm belt and alleged side effects of the corn syrup.
    • Jan 22 2014: I can see your point. There are always unforeseen consequences for our actions.

      Today's over reliance on sugar containing foods and refined carbohydrates is itself largely due to the widespread assumption in the 1980's and 90's that fat was the main culprit in unhealthy Western diets. This led to a wave of 'healthy' and 'diet' foods where the fat content would be replaced with sugar instead.

      But should we let our mistakes in the past prevent us from trying to improve the future. Yes there will always be consequences, but what is the alternative? do nothing?
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        Jan 22 2014: "but what is the alternative? do nothing?"


        You would rather persuade someone into better behavior through force?

        Make no mistake, making something a law is using force. In my area if you don't wear your seat belt it will cost $200 (which is a real good idea?) don't pay the ticket and they will use force to "rectify" the situation.

        The state legislators pass about 900 new laws per year, because they "know best" what people should be doing. BTW they must be real smart fellers to know what is best for 39 million people, don't you think?

        If I had my druthers I would like to do away with the central bank. Educating people about the problem is the only answer, although it is more likely the entire country will fail before that happens.
        • Jan 23 2014: You say that educating people is the only answer.

          Yet many intelligent, educated people who are fully aware of the risks associated with diabetes/obesity are overweight and continue to eat foods that they know will damage their health and could even contribute to their premature death. Should we just ignore the problem and let them get on with it? What about the cost to our crumbling health service? the billions that could be spent on other problems?

          Often, knowing that something is bad for you isn't enough. Especially when we are constantly surrounded by the things that we know are bad.

          Could a sugar tax help pump some money back into the health service that desperately needs it?

          Or if not, does the education you mentioned simply need to take a different form. Maybe rather than simply telling people something is bad we need to educate about health in a more practical, hands on way?

          Or maybe we should privatise health care? although that didn't seem to go to well for other industries. Look at the state of our railways, not exactly a glowing example of privatisation.

          I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.
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        Jan 23 2014: I don't think you are hearing me.

        Whatever the person chooses it is THEIR CHOICE.
        • Jan 23 2014: I hear you.

          I'm just playing devils advocate here, I didn't mean to offend. I'm not meaning to express any opinion on the matter here. Simply asking questions and challenging views.

          Sorry if you got the wrong end of the stick. My apologies
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        Jan 23 2014: Don't flatter yourself. The point is simple.
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          Jan 23 2014: Is being so brash in a discussion necessary, it doesnt seem to me that Bethan is doing much wrong, except of course not having the same opinion as you....
          It all seems quite contradictory. You spout about the use of 'force' in changing behaviour being immoral, yet are so willing to answer bethan's opinion with such contempt.

          I think you need to take a step back and start practicing what you preach...
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        Jan 23 2014: He is assuming that he is offending me. This forum is moderated and is very mild, you consider my post brash, go figure.

        Both of you are avoiding debating my point.
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          Jan 24 2014: I am assuming that I am offending you? no no no you've got the wrong end of the stick Pat, I actually understand and agree with what you say, to an extent. However If I was Bethan, then yes, I would be far more willing to offend you.....and it would not be difficult to adequately do so with the way you compose yourself! I am simply an observer who thought that maybe if you saw things the way I have you may change your attitude... clearly I was wrong there.

          And again you are wrong, I have no need to answer your point, I was not participating in your little debate, I am honest enough to say that despite my qualification in bio chem, I am not qualified enough to say with certainty what the right course of action would be. But hey, some of us are more humble than others eh! Speaking of not answering points......you seem to have ignored the clear contradiction I highlighted in your previous post... care to act how you so quickly suggest others to do? I wont hold my breath!

          Once again Pat, you show little more than average intellectualism, padded out with a large amount ignorance... I think its about time you finished blemishing this debate with your absurd comments.
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        Jan 24 2014: No I'm very simple and definitely not an intellectual. I'm quite proud that I'm able to get around on my hind legs.

        I'm simply stating my disagreement with the idea that someone knows what is best for someone else. Since an obese individual is not hurting anyone else why should the obese individual be forced to do anything?

        That is my only point anything else is a digression.
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          Jan 24 2014: "Since an obese individual is not hurting anyone else why should the obese individual be forced to do anything"

          Sorry Pat, but I am a little confused... I do not recall anyone here calling for obese people to have anything forced upon them. A tax on sugar doesnt single anybody out (not that I am for that!) A increase in the quality of education certainly doesnt force anything upon anyone....You talk as if we are all calling for anyone overweight to be rounded up and shipped to some weight loss camp, while you, the knight in shining armour have arrived to set us all straight. I think its about time you returned to reality...

          Lets get this right, these kinds of conversations are simply an exchange of ideas and thoughts... your malicious tactic of debating points counter the very nature of this, and while this is half assumed of me, I believe I speak for most people here when I say such an attitude is not welcome.

          This is a digression Pat, that's what happens in debates when you spout rubbish, people pick up on it and counter, you can stop trying to avoid it like a petulant child if you like and own up to your misgivings.

          Speaking of avoiding, I answered your point when you said "Both of you are avoiding debating my point". So I'll ask for a second time, care to answer mine now? Or do you only talk about subject matter that doesnt infringe on your ego...
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        Jan 24 2014: The reason for the original point was to combat obesity.

        This law would force people to pay more for sugary drinks. If a business man decides not to pay the additional tax for the drinks he will be FORCED to or out of business.

        You are arguing for the group doing what is best, I'm arguing for individual freedom.
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          Jan 24 2014: Ooooo, I see now Pat! That's very thoughtful of you, a point well made!! Its touching that you care so much for the plight of the common businessman...

          Oh no wait a minute....wasnt it OBESE people were to being forced to do things earlier... let me copy and paste you comment:

          "Since an obese individual is not hurting anyone else why should the obese individual be forced to do anything?"

          So are we assuming all business folk are obese? that seems like quite a stereotype, or could it be that your arguments are so flippant and sporadic that even you do not understand what you are going on about...

          Once again you are ignoring my point, if you are such a liberal, thoughtful gentleman, why on earth would you speak to people like Bethan like they're dirt off your shoe for simply having an alternate view. Like I said previously, I do not believe a tax on sugary produce would solve the issue, and I have a clear picture in my head why that is... I do not need your half-baked thoughts, anyone can see the issues you bring up that such a tax would present. However there are always two-sides to a story, maybe there are benefits unforeseen that could arise if such a change was made. Who are you or I to have such conviction that one way or another is certainly right.

          I must say I am not in the habit of lowering myself to such standards, but you sir, are a buffoon... only that is clear from your comments. I suggest this discussion ends here, as I havnt the interest in entertaining your rubbish any longer.

          Good day to Pat, I only hope for you a rock from the sky one day knocks some sense into that skull of yours
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        Jan 24 2014: You see the value of something is determined by free exchange. Each individual has his idea of what is valuable this is subjective where each individual determines that for his self interest it is best to make the exchange it becomes objective.

        When force is used to greater or lesser extent the exchange is no longer voluntary and no longer objective or subjective. At this point the market is abandoned and unintended consequences manifest themselves.

        I strenuously object to the collective deciding what is best for the individual.

        If you have a problem with that too bad, get over yourself and look at what I'm saying.

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