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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 23 2014: So far, most people seem to agree that we have a problem with sugar consumption, but for one reason or another feel that taxing sugar is either A) too impractical/difficult to enforce B) a violation to personal freedom or C)part of a much wider problem that cannot be solved through tax policy.

    Do you agree?

    I'd also love to hear from anybody who

    A) thinks that taxing sugar could be a good idea, and if so, how would it work?
    B) thinks that sugar and HFCS are not as harmful to health as some research would suggest. Do you think sugar is being demonised unfairly? look at research into saturated fat in the 90's and 00's and how experts are backtracking now.
    C)Has a suggestion of a better way to deal with the current obesity epidemic.
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      Jan 23 2014: I am sure it will already have been said, but surely the best way to tackle such an issue would be through a more thorough education. Those that understand all the facts are surely in the best position to decide what is good for them (or what is not, but okay to eat anyway for whatever reason), but then again I've never been a fan of anything that points towards a 'nanny state'. So I guess I am not a fan of the taxing idea.

      Its a tough call though, there are many factors revolving around how one even gets obese in the first place, many of which will be no doubt be unexplored by most. Factor such a social pressure, culture and so on.....either way I dont think I am qualified so say with any certainty what should be done. Its a good thing to discuss however Bethan, I dont think enough people take the obesity epidemic very seriously!!
      • Jan 24 2014: Hi Chris,

        Thanks for joining the conversation. I agree that it's a very tough call.

        I don't claim to know any of the answers and I'm sure there are many more people out there who are far better equiped than myself to tackle the issue. The only thing that I can say with any certainty is that whatever we are doing at the moment is not working. I guess we can only hope that by encouraging more people to discuss the issue we might get closer to a way of dealing with what is fast becoming one of the biggest health issues around the world.
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      Jan 23 2014: If we taxed everything that was deemed to be bad for us, politicians would have to tax themselves :)

      The media is telling us we should look like that photoshopped person on the front page, while the food industry is aggressively marketing the wherewithal to become the polar opposite. Result? Eating disorders, depression, obesity...

      These two industries, aided and abetted by politicians, have a lot to answer for.
      • Jan 24 2014: Hi Allan,

        Thanks for joining the conversation. Personally I think a politician tax sounds like a great idea : )

        Good point about media and food industry influences. But do you think that this is something that is likely, or even possible to change? I think in the last few years the media has shown some progress in promoting a healthier body image, especially with regards to using sports people as opposed to stick thin models in magazines/advertising etc. However, since most people will never look like athletes, is this still glorifying a body type that is unachievable for most?

        The media would probably argue that they only convey what people want to see, and people don't want to see/read about joe average. So I guess what I'm asking is, do you think there is a way the media can promote a healthier outlook without losing people's interest?
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          Jan 24 2014: Hi Bethan,

          This feeds into the wider issue of what exactly is a 'free society' and where, if left alone, it will end up. Is an unregulated free society likely to descend into immorality, or ascend into a utopian, civilised moral high ground if left to it's own devices?

          If a free society is to self-regulate, who or what would be responsible for such morality? Personally I don't see such a moral code as being innate. It may well be in individuals, but not necessarily collectively without, lamentably, a pervading influence of a belief system - or even a benign dictatorship.

          Isn't this also true when we think of an unregulated (or self-regulated), free media? Does complete freedom lead ultimately towards an erosion of morality?

          It could therefore be true that a free media, in conveying what people want to see, isn't necessarily responding to innate morality, but rather an unwritten code set by commercialism and the free-market economy. I leave it open to debate as to whether commercialism and the free-market is in some way synonymous with morality...

          I think you're right about glorifying body types. The unachievable is also aspirational, and it is those aspirations (dressed up as reality) that sell products, in a way that the ordinary and the achievable would not.

          You ask is there a way the media can promote a healthier outlook without losing people's interest? My answer is if we want unfettered freedom, then we also have to accept the diminution of many things that makes civilisation civilised.

          Freedom, given collective human nature, comes with a price tag.

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