The sugar tax is back in the news this week as an official report from Public Health England is released. Pressure has been put on the Prime Minister over the issue, as celebrities including Jamie Oliver gather support for the campaign.
The whole sugar tax seems to be dividing opinion across the nation, and in all honesty, I sit on the fence over the issue. As sugar seems to be the new tobacco, and diseases such as obesity and diabetes are on the rise, people are quickly blaming sugar for the rising NHS bill.
The report comes at a significant time, as Mexico have recently released figures of declining soft drink sales after introducing a 10% tax on them. The tax has been accountable for successfully decreasing soft drink sales by 6% between 2014 and 2015. However, I have found no data to suggest that Mexico’s high obesity and diabetes rates have been affected. Perhaps this would show in future statistics? Controversially, Mexico now have plans to reduce the tax on sugar after apparently ‘bowing to industry pressure’ after the decline in sales was blamed for thousands of job losses.
Those against the sugar tax have many good arguments, one being the current VAT on luxury products like chocolate bars and soft drinks. As these products come under standard VAT, they are already being taxed at 20%, and yet obesity and diabetes still rise. Would a further tax make more of a difference? Perhaps to the poorest people, those who could not afford to carry on buying the products. If that happened, the government would effectively be banning poor people from a luxury. However, others see this as a necessary step in lowering the cost of the NHS.
So what is the alternative to the sugar tax? Many people are calling for more education on health and nutrition but I’m not so sure that is the answer. People know when they are over indulging, they know what foods are good and bad for them and they know that too much sugar can lead to a higher risk of disease. Yet they still choose to eat and drink what they like. Perhaps that is why the supporters of the tax feel the government should act as a parent and restrict sugar intake through the use of higher prices.
Both sides have valid arguments but I think it is unlikely that the current government will implement the tax. David Cameron would be seen as prosecuting the poor if he did agree to the sugar tax, which is perhaps why he doesn’t favour the move. He does however, favour restrictions on advertisements of high sugar products, which I agree with. Personally, I look forward to seeing Mexico’s future statistics regarding obesity and diabetes. They could show whether the tax is actually affective or not.
What do you think of the tax campaign? Let us know in the comments below.