Photocredit: Tobyotter http://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/5350627034/sizes/z/in/photostream/
Eating fatty foods is getting more pricey across Europe? Hungary and Denmark have begun to tax foods that contain high levels of fat, sugar and salt. The European obesity average is a tubby 15 percent; the Danes are a jejeune 9 per cent, which is far below the monstrous American average of one third. Now David Cameron’s stepped in with a plan to introduce the tax here, because apparently half of us will be obese by 2050. You are classed as “obese” if your weight seriously endangers your health. If brought in here, then it could mean 25p on a packet of butter, and a huge 8p on the price of a packet of crisps. .
“The problem in the past when people have looked at using the tax system in this way is the impact it can have on people on low incomes. But frankly, do we have a problem with the growing level of obesity? Yes”, said David Cameron, quoted on The Huffington Post.
More of a push than a nudge. Sounding a little sniffy, The Daily Mail took the line that backbenchers in the Tory party won’t welcome the move, labelling it as something a nanny state might do. The paper also said that this tax would go against the party’s fashionable “nudge” theory (which tries to gently push people towards a healthier lifestyle.)
“We will obviously have to wait to see the small print of the tax he is considering but he has made a move in the right direction”, said Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum, quoted on The Daily Mail
Everyone should be more like Denmark! Mark Bittman on The New York Times Opinionator blog said there were three reasons for this sudden rise in interest in taxing fatty foods. Governments are finding it hard to raise new revenue streams, so taxing fat foods is “like peeking under a rock and finding a diamond.” Also, people don’t mind paying tax if the money’s going somewhere good – and in Denmark that’s true, with univeral health care, free education and an excellent benefits system. The final one is that social engineering just isn’t a problem in Denmark – if they believe something’s wrong, they tax it. The tax has problems – it doesn’t apply to any fats other than saturated – plus, people might just cross the border to get their pizza fixes. When the States gets round to doing the same, though, it’ll be time for “a serious celebration.”
What are you talking about? Denmark is silly! Don’t be ridiculous, said Dr Robert Lefever on The Daily Mail. Taxes on cigarettes have no effect on smokers – why would a tax on fatty foods affect people who want to eat? Just as alcoholics and hardcore smokers use their addictions to provide “respite from depression,”so do compulsive eaters consume too much, eating “mood-altering” foods. “Sugar is a drug that in the UK kills two hundred people a day,” but people who are addicted will continue to be so. Lefever himself used to be overweight – and from his own experience, claims that a “fat tax would never have changed me.”
Quite right. We’re looking at it the wrong way round. I agree, said Dr Ian Campbell in The Daily Mirror. Also, it’s an “unfair” tax. There are many other factors when it comes to obesity – your job, your place of residence, your choices. It would be much better to reduce taxes on healthy foods to incentivise people.