sugar

Sugar is the new tobacco. Here’s what we should do about it!

Whichever way you look at it, Britain is facing an obesity crisis. A study into long-term public health in England and Scotland published earlier this month reached the startling conclusion that obesity is causing more deaths than smoking, with nearly two thirds of British adults now overweight.

This past year has brought rising obesity levels into sharp focus because of the effect that being overweight seems to have on the fatality of Covid-19. According to research from the World Obesity Federation, nine out of ten deaths from coronavirus occurred in countries with high obesity levels, which might go some way towards explaining why the UK has seen a disproportionately high death toll.

This issue has not passed the Government by. Led by a man who was elected on a platform of halting ‘the continuing creep of the nanny state’, this Conservative Government has unveiled a raft of policies designed to ease the pressure on Britain’s weighing scales, including the sugar tax, a ‘junk food’ advertising ban and even a fund – with a £100m price tag – which is apparently designed to bribe people into losing weight.

The problems with these policies are too numerous to count. Sin taxes hit the poor harder than anyone else, making the weekly shopping trip more expensive for families who are already struggling. The junk food ad ban is set to remove around 1.7 calories, or half a Smartie’s worth of energy intake, from children’s diets per day – according to the Government’s analysis of its own policy. And the state-funded version of Slimming World sounds like something that comes out of a pop-up book of policies. Yes, and ho!

It is unclear why Boris Johnson, who was able to lose weight after his brush with Covid without any of these new Government-sponsored initiatives in place, is now so firmly of the belief that the Government must crack down on unhealthy eating if we are to have any hope of slowing down the increase in obesity rates – especially when the private sector is doing most of the hard work voluntarily.

Tesco, for instance, recently bowed to external pressure by committing itself to increasing its sales of healthy foods to 65% of total sales by 2025. Time and time again, when there is an issue people care about, companies go out of their way to do their bit – even at the expense of their bottom line. We saw the same thing happen when the world woke up to the reality of climate change, with businesses eagerly signing up to costly net-zero plans.

Positive moves like this from incumbent giants are complemented by the wealth of innovation taking place around obesity. Semaglutide, a diabetes drug, was recently found to be extraordinarily effective in helping people lose weight. Even something as innocuous as sugar-free chewing gum might just represent part of the solution. Datasuggests that the mere act of idle chewing suppresses the appetite, resulting in a 10% reduction in the consumption of sweet and salty snacks.

Crucially, these remarkable steps towards a less obese Britain can take place at no cost to the taxpayer, free of the grip of Whitehall bureaucracy and at an astonishing pace. We have just lived through a year in which the Government pumped billions into a near-useless ‘test and trace’ system and repeatedly failed to clarify whether or not drinking coffee on a park bench is illegal. If there is one incontrovertible lesson we can surely take from that, it is that we should not leave such important tasks to the state.

Sugar is the new tobacco, so we need to be smart in how we tackle it. Sporadic, ill-thought-out Government interventions like banning Marmite adverts are not the answer. Private-sector innovation, not centralised policy, is Britain’s best hope of slimming down.

Originally published here

We must resist Public Health England’s brave new world

We must resist Public Health England’s brave new world

In a remarkable authoritarian parting shot as she left her post as Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies published a report entitled Time to Solve Childhood Obesity, which was warmly welcomed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

The report’s recommendations would create a positively dystopian world. Public Health England want to outright ban eating on public transport. Inflated VAT rates would make simple food and drinks purchases seem rather more extravagant than before.

There would be no more junk food ads, and buying fast food would become an ordeal and a luxury. But if the government opts to follow the report’s recommendations – which is a real possibility, whoever wins the election – this Brave New World could soon become a reality.

The supposed childhood obesity epidemic has been slowly but surely taking over British public health discourse. It began around 2005, with Jamie Oliver’s televisual lip service, and eventually resulted in George Osborne’s sugar tax eleven years later.

With over one in five English 10 and 11-year-olds suffering from obesity according to the latest available data from the NHS, the government has understandably set alarm bells ringing.

The domineering, restrictive approach being proposed by Public Health England, however, brings to light some deep-seated issues.

The key one has to do with individual freedoms. Radical measures like taxing ‘unhealthy’ foods, banning ads and enforcing plain packaging would fail to tackle childhood obesity, while also harshly affecting adults and their personal choices.

This kind of nannyism is remarkably cross-party, differing only in degree. While Jeremy Corbyn’s support for sin taxes and junk food ad bans comes as no surprise, it is quite baffling to witness Tories persistently meddling with individual choices too.

Considering the party’s ideological roots, you would expect the Conservatives to be more mindful of the dangers this approach poses for the fundamental freedom to choose.

Plain packaging of tobacco products and the ban on plastic straws signalled a drastic shift away from core Conservative values, and it seems that things are only getting worse.

Public support appears dishearteningly high for such approaches. A YouGov poll from a few months ago showed that 55% of the public believe we need additional taxation on unhealthy foods and drinks. Alarmingly, the figure among Conservative voters is 54%.

The poll also found that nearly two thirds of British adults would be in favour of banning junk food TV ads before the 9pm watershed, with only 20% opposed. Almost three quarters support restrictions on food advertising on YouTube and social media.

In this context, ad bans and harsh authoritarian restrictions are seeming less and less draconian. It would appear that infringing on individual choices is politically profitable in Britain today.

It is little wonder, then, that the Conservative party continues to err on the side of greater state interference, despite the ideological mismatch it causes.

Whether we will truly find ourselves waking up one day to be greeted by Public Health England’s brave and healthy new world remains unclear.

Back in July, Boris Johnson vowed to review sin taxes and put an end once and for all to the “continuing creeping of the nanny state”, but since then, solid commitments or steps in that direction have not been forthcoming.

Perhaps, the nanny state seems appealing to many at the moment because we have not yet experienced fully-fledged nannyism in action.

If the current trend continues, we may find out by 2024 whether following Public Health England’s programme of taxes, ad bans and plain packaging will be enough to fight childhood obesity, or if yet more restrictions on choice will be on their way.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

USA gegen WHO-Zuckersteuern

NOVO ARGUMENTE: Die Trump-Regierung blockiert innerhalb der Weltgesundheitsorganisation die Forderung nach einer Zuckersteuer. Gut so, denn eine solche Steuer ist paternalistisch und gegen die Armen gerichtet.

Scroll to top