More British Pub Debates

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Childhood Obesity News has been looking at matters connected with the United Kingdom’s sugar tax. Writer Colin Lloyd enumerated some of them for the CobdenCentre.org website, in beautiful English and with eloquently phrased points, but these are also the inflammatory issues that citizens wrangle about whenever they get together.

One of Lloyd’s arguments is practically unanswerable: that there are more effective ways to move the needle on the child obesity meter. Yes, there are, but probably not the ones the tax opponents are thinking of. If Lloyd had his way, Her Majesty’s domain would see more of this business model:

Public-Private partnership schemes to provide healthy eating advice in supermarkets. These could incorporate incentive schemes with clothing vouchers since most supermarkets also retail clothing.

Of course, in the United Kingdom, the word “scheme” does not have the connotation of evil intent. It’s more neutral, like “plan.” But that isn’t why this idea sounds vaguely sketchy. A cynical person might think that somebody’s relative is in the retail clothing business. An equally disillusioned person might suspect that the object is to coerce companies into paying their employees to dispense government propaganda in public places.

Besides, we have already disposed of the “healthy eating advice” argument by showing that what people actually require are coping skills. Not that there is anything wrong with basic nutrition information, and every now and then, the public needs a refresher course.

Also, from time to time, a major discovery is made, like how overeating is an addictive process, or how the sugar industry paid researchers to say that fat was the sole and only obesity villain. But generally, there is enough advice to go around.

Another idea

The United Kingdom has a national health care plan, where medical attention is supposedly free of charge. But one of the ideas put forth by Lloyd is this:

Charging for doctor’s consultations if a patient fails to meet targets in terms of change of diet and weight loss — the revenue from these consultations could be ring-fenced to support educational schemes.

There is a potential problem when funds are ring-fenced (or earmarked, as we say in America) for certain noble causes. After the crisis leaves the front page and people move on to other concerns, those funds sometimes tend to go astray. Also, in terms of governmental procedure, this can be a troublesome precedent to set, because then every other special interest group wants to jump on the bandwagon and have exceptions made for them.

Lloyd also says:

The global obesity crisis prompted the introduction of sugar taxes — recent evidence from Mexico suggests that is does not work.

That does not appear to be strictly true. During the first year of Mexico’s soda and junk food tax, the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages went down by 5.5%, and dropped by 9.7% in the second year, producing an average of 7.6% for each of those two years, which is not bad at all.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Sugar, Honey, Honey – the Weighty Problem of Obesity and Substitution,” CobdenCentre.org, 03/17/7
Source: “Mexico’s sugar tax leads to fall in consumption for second year running,” TheGuardian.com, 02/22/17
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