A Sugar Tax Would Be a Good Idea

sugary-drinks

Le Royaume-Uni envisage la possibilité d’instaurer une taxe sur le sucre pour prévenir les risques d’obésité. En effet, le Royaume-Uni a le plus grand taux d’obésité en Europe après la Hongrie. Le nombre d’obèses étant en expansion, le pays entend bien prendre des mesures drastiques. 

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The annual report on the state of Britain’s health shows that a sugar tax may be necessary to prevent the obesity rate from increasing further and encourage people to adopt healthier eating habits. ” It should come as no shock that obesity is one of the biggest threats to the UK,  not only in terms of individual and collective health, but in terms of financial cost and societal impact”, the report says.

Individual and collective health

The UK has the second highest obesity rate in Europe. In fact, 64% of adults are classified as overweight and 26% as obese. And those figures are on the increase: by 2050, specialists of Public Health England expect that 60 % of men, half of women and a quarter of children may be classified as obese. And most people don’t recognize they have a weight problem. Strangely enough, obesity is becoming the new norm in today’s society.

In the long run, it will be necessary to first address the problem of childhood obesity. Dame Sally Davies, England’S Chief Medical Officer, said: “children are consuming more sugar than they should. A third of added sugar in the diet of 11 to 18-year-olds comes from “easily avoidable sources” such as fizzy drinks, smoothies and fruit juices with added sugar”. She also said something that had stirred controversy throughout the country: “We have a generation of children who, because they are overweight and sedentary, will not live as long as my generation”.

Children are a prime target for advertisers. A recent survey shows that they targeted prime time TV slots as a priority, when children watch television with their families. Over a fifth of adverts during shows such as the X Factor were for food.

Financial cost

Besides collective health, the problem is that overweight and obesity cost the NHS over £5 billion each year and are entirely preventable. The problem is particularly serious for maternity units. Indeed overweight or obese pregnant women require many more hospital visits. Obese pregnant women cost « NHS up to 37% more ».

Other figures show that the number of children admitted to hospital for obesity has quadrupled in less than a decade. Likewise, obese patient require specialist equipment and more staff.

What can be done 

A sugar tax seems to emerge as an effective and obvious solution to curb obesity. Today the UK Department of Health is considering a 20% tax on sugary soft drinks  to force the food industry to reduce the amount of added sugars in products and to protect consumers and more specifically children.

But some rebelled against this aberrant and regressive measure. It would make food more expensive and would affect the poorest first. Furthermore it is well-known that taxes can often be easily bypassed, which is why other solutions are currently being discussed. The majority of them aim at directly addressing the problem of the food industry in terms of responsibility. It should substitute sugar as well as participate in a public education campaign. TV advertising must be also regulated. Others don’s believe in interventionist policies and advocate individual responsibility. For instance, Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, said “People cannot look to government alone and must start to take responsibility for their health by changing their unhealthy lifestyles”. Hunt’s statement is very much in the spirit of the 2012 NHS reforms which may ultimately lead to complete privatization.

Justine CARLES & Célia SACUTO

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