In Merry Old England


It’s hard to ignore the fact that the United Kingdom has been something of a hot spot in the controversy over the taxing of sugar products. For purposes of this post, the U.K. comprises Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Wales is also part of the Queen’s realm, but will be covered separately.

As part of a five-year effort, the city of Wolverhampton has put several measures into operation, with others in planning stages. The approach concentrates on increased fitness opportunities, the provision of good information, and the regulating of fast-food menus.

A program called Sugar Smart City has strongly influenced policy in Brighton and Hove (which, despite its conjoined name, is a single city). Its childhood obesity record was pretty good already, but they had been seeing 300 kids hospitalized for tooth extraction every year. The city authorities got together with the widely-known chef and tireless advocate of healthful eating, Jamie Oliver, to promote the idea of a voluntary sugar tax.

Just over a year ago, Brighton and Hove became the first British city to institute the voluntary sugar tax, which apparently involves asking businesses to charge extra for fizzy drinks, but not sending the law after them if they don’t. Any revenue collected goes to charity. The next step would be the abolition of sugary junk food in hospital vending machines.

For The Guardian, Sarah Johnson quoted public health director Dr. Tom Scanlan:

It’s ridiculous if you’re a diabetic, you’re sitting there in the waiting room and there’s a vending machine along the corridor offering you what got you in the problem in the first place.

Another morbidly obese boy

Kardel Wilson became a media sensation as one in a seemingly never-ending series of notoriously obese children. At six years old, he weighed around 110 pounds and was about twice the size a boy his age should be, a condition described by Rebecca Hardy as “frighteningly obese.”

She goes on to say:

In fact, plug his height (3ft 10in) and weight into the NHS’s body mass index (BMI) calculator and Kardel is in the 99th percentile, meaning if you stick him in a room of 100 boys of his age, he’ll be the fattest.

Two years before, a marble slab fell on the little boy’s foot and broke three bones. At first unable to walk, and then unwilling to, he started to get fat, although his mother Sam didn’t notice anything. She told the reporter:

He had a plaster cast and wouldn’t walk. He said it hurt him all the time. So he sat with his colouring books or watching TV and I’d give him sweets, candy floss, popcorn and stuff. He looked so forlorn you wanted to cheer him up.

She overlooked his increasing girth until the school sent a letter home. Sam refused the offer of free healthy parenting classes and told Hardy:

I didn’t go because I do know what’s healthy, what isn’t and what portion sizes to give. I know tinned stuff has a lot of salt and sugar in it.

For a documentary, Sam allowed the reporter to examine the contents of her refrigerator and kitchen cabinets where, Hardy observed, snacks and empty calories abounded, but not so much as a floret of broccoli could be found.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Sugar tax, fat fines and gold coins: new ways cities are tackling obesity,” The, 10/22/15
Source: “A boy aged six weighs EIGHT STONE and his mum says she can’t stop him eating,”, 11/02/15
Photo credit: Les Chatfield (Elsie esq.) via Visualhunt/CC BY

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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