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Bethan Davies

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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: The sugar tax does not solve any problem and the revenue generated by it is neglectable. Problems related with the abuse of substances, including: alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sugar, simply cannot be solved by a tax policy, it´s dumb to think that. A tax policy like the one implemented by the Mexican government has little impact on the consumers' habits in the short term and no impact on the long term, people simply gets used to pay more. The Mexican sugar tax law is the prefect example, on day one people still preferred coke over milk, no one stopped eating junk food, so in terms of health care it was a complete, absolute and shameful failure, since the very first day!!!

    Some may say the problem lies on the Mexican government imposing a too low tax rate, however when you impose a high tax on a "rewarding" substance you automatically open the door for the black market and the mafia behind it.

    So, in terms of health care, a solid education and a rigorous discipline imposed from home at a very young age solves more problems than any tax law.
    • Jan 23 2014: A great point. If taxing a harmful substance has little or no impact on consumer habits then it does simply become another way for the government to levy more money.

      Would it make a difference if the money got pumped directly into the health care system? After all, obesity, diabetes and related conditions now cost the health care system more than alcohol or tobacco. Is it fair that our health care is under threat or is personal freedom more important than access to decent medical care?

      Can education tackle the problem? or will people always seek out pleasure regardless of the consequences as one of the previous commenters suggested?
      • Jan 23 2014: Tax revenues coming from sugar are marginal compared with other taxes, so "pumping" them to the health care system will also have very little impact. Like you said, the sugar tax is just another way for the government to levy money, however a very dumb way, since it generates very little income.

        One the other hand, education, and I mean education at home combined with a strict discipline imposed at home at a very young age can solve a whole lot more (health) problems than all the tax laws together. Obesity is after all, a problem of lack of proper education plus lack of discipline, self imposed discipline to be more precise, and the only way to learn self imposed discipline is through your parents. A disciplined society requires less health care related expenses, which translates in better invested taxes and thus higher quality in the health care system.

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