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How to solve Europe’s obesity problem

Give responsibility to individuals

Bill Wirtz is a policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center. Twitter: @wirtzbill

The measures that the World Health Organization suggests to tackle diseases caused by malnutrition, tobacco or alcohol are not only contrary to consumer choice, they also do not achieve their objectives.

Excessive price increases and branding bans have fostered the flow of fake products into the EU. Trying to over-tax products so that demand slows is regressive. It also fuels illicit trade, a trend very noticeable with tobacco and increasingly a problem with alcohol. A study commissioned by tobacco companies showed illicit tobacco trade from Algeria to France has increased 300 percent since 2012.

As for nutrition-related diseases, calorie intake is declining but so is physical activity. Lawmakers should help educators promote physical activity instead of banning products and restricting choices. Measures such as the Danish “fat tax” have shown adverse effects, with consumers keeping the same calorie intake but downgrading to cheaper products with poorer nutritional value.

Nobody is denying that some lifestyle choices are unhealthy, but giving responsibility to individuals will tackle problems like obesity much more effectively than failed government policies.

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