in defence of jamie & the sugar tax
If you asked me around 5 years ago, I never thought I’d be saying this, but I actually think Jamie Oliver is a pretty decent bloke, with some good ideas, and his heart is most definitely in the right place. The recent Sugar Tax proposal seems to have been blown way out of proportion with many people outraged that the cheeky chappy is trying to tell us all how to live our lives. The thought of it, someone trying to improve the lives of thousands of children (and adults)!? What a complete tosser.
Anyway, it has to be said that there are plenty of people also in support of the argument, the Guardian reckons over half of people polled support some kind of taxes on unhealthy food, although I guess they would say that 🙂 – I reckon in the general public at large the support is much lower, but maybe I’m being pessimistic on my fellow human (jelly) beans.
benefits of a sugar tax
To sum up, for those of you who haven’t seen Jamie’s TV show or read much about it, Jamie proposes that a good start off on our path to a healthier nation would be to introduce a tax on soft drinks with a high sugar content. The simple fact that there are higher prices on sugary drinks will encourage or force consumers to opt for lower sugar content drinks. There will of course still be a large number of sugary drinks sold, and those will attract more tax revenue for the government. It is obvious that we’d therefore get an instant double whammy of a less obese population + more tax revenue but let’s talk about the benefits more in depth now, which are:
- A healthier nation: This is good in and of itself of course but also it will require less NHS spending on sugar related illnesses such as diabetes and other obesity related diseases, and it should hopefully save on your dentist bill as well!
- A healthier economy: A healthier nation also means a more productive nation as there are less days off sick and more people available to work. So it should in theory be a positive boost, albeit maybe a small one, to the economy as well, which again means more taxes for the government as all economic activity is taxed.
- A healthier NHS: As pointed out above NHS spending should drop on obesity related areas but also the tax from the sugary drink can be used to pump straight back into the NHS to pay directly for treatment for those that need it, so in theory this should ease the strain on the already overstretched NHS. This would leave more money for people with conditions that were not inflicted by lifestyle choices such as this little lad with muscular dystrophy 1.
- Less externalities therefore a more fair tax: An Externality is “the cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit”. In other words, as mentioned above, treatment is paid for by the people that decide to consume sugary drinks, rather than by everyone in the country who pays tax, which is what happens with the current model. Personally I think it is fairer if those who consume sugary drinks pay for the treatment of those who consume too much of them. If you disagree with that point then I would love to hear your reasoning behind that!
- Corporations will provide healthier options: With declining sales in the unhealthy drinks companies will look to develop healthier options for us to consume, which in turn will bring even more health benefits for the nation. Those that do not change with the times will fade out and die. Tough shit. I’d rather a company that produces crap dies than actual people!
- It’s already been proven to work: They’ve already introduced a sugary drinks tax in Mexico, and lo and behold, it worked.
- It’s just the start: Once we see the benefits of a sugary drinks tax this will hopefully spur on the taxing of other unhealthy foods such as crisps and cookies. Again the “not that well known for it’s forward thinking” Mexico has already done this. Salut! to you, Mexico!
the arguments against a sugar tax
Despite generally running on a low information diet, what’s going on in the news does tend to filter through to you via osmosis. So I heard the furore about the sugar tax from a few members of friends and family. I decided to pick up a copy of the Metro to see what the public’s arguments were against the sugar tax, in the letters section 2. It turns out that there was not one single argument that could be backed up with logic, most in fact are quite laughable in their feebleness and boil down to people not liking being told what to do and that “we live in a free country” etc…
I will go through them now for your amusement.
I love chocolate. I eat it after most meals and for snacks, and I’m a size eight. Why should the rest of us have to pay 20 percent tax on sugary foods because some children have bad diets, do not control how much they eat and do not exercise enough? Steph, London
Congratulations Steph, you are probably about 17 and/or are the one in twenty who have a ridiculously high metabolism and/or don’t eat all that much else apart from your beloved choco treats. Do you really not give two shits about the rest of your fellow human race?
To blame it on children seems a overly harsh. Children don’t usually get to choose what they eat, and bad habits tend to echo down through the generations. The change will have to come from external pressures, and a sugar tax is a great way to change people’s behaviour.
Also, I would love to see your dental bill and waistline in twenty years time, all that choco is going to catch up with you eventually love!
Sugar tax? Really? What happened to parents saying no to their kids. Jack, London
You know what would make it much easier for them to say no? If the bad stuff was more expensive than the good stuff. Sweets used to be much more expensive as a percentage of disposable income and therefore my mother, for example, would just say “I can’t afford it” (basically because it was true as well). Nowadays most people can afford it so it’s much harder to say no.
It’s not sugar that’s the issue. It’s laziness. Get out exercising. Michael, Bucks
Err… no Michael. As the ermine has eloquently pointed out you cannot outrun a bad diet. If you consume 2 cans of coke per day you are bumping up your calorie count by around 280 calories. This would take, according to my running app Cardio Trainer, 3 miles of running per day to burn off. And that is only to burn off the excess calories from 2 sugary drinks, let alone whatever else you ate that day!!! I love running but even I cannot be arsed to run 3+ miles a day. So most people in this country are better off leaving the sugary drinks on the shelf mate!
We don’t want a nanny state. Taxation is not the right way, education is. Vernon Quaintance, Surrey
Ding ding ding!!! We have a Buzzword Bingo winner! Anyone parroting the phrase “Nanny State” should instantly lose the argument anyway but I actually disagree that further eduction on these matters will have any effect.
1) It is much harder to get through to every single person in the country via the means of eduction. Some just won’t receive it, others won’t understand it, and others still will receive it and ignore it.
2) The basics of a good diet are now well known and have been in the public domain for years. It is, or should be, well known that too much sugar is bad for you yet people still consume far too much of it. So what do you think (even) more education is actually going to do?
Hit people where it hurts, their pockets, that is when people notice, and the message will hit home to every single person in the country. No need to print off 60 millions pamphlets on the dangers of consuming too much sugar, then!
Surely it’s up to the individual whether they choose to eat sugary things or not? Why do the rest of us have to pay for those people who can’t control what they eat? Dan, Bristol
We should be able to choose what we want to eat and drink without penalties. Cigarettes and alcohol have increased in taxes. Are we not allowed any sweeteners in life? Jacqueline Phillips, London
Hello Dan, you are already paying for those that can’t control what they eat via your taxes which are being used up for their NHS treatment my lad!!! Please see my arguments #3 and #4 above for further info. And Jesus F Christ Jacqueline, please do the same. *Without penalty*… are you serious?! Do you not realise the penalties you are dishing out on yourself with a horribly bad diet? And are you arguing that cigs and booze should not be taxed either here or what, as it suspiciously sounds like you are? You have clearly not heard of the concept of Externalities either, if you are.
I’m not convinced a sugar tax is the way forward. Let us concentrate on getting food manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products. Cal, Merseyside
Hmm… *scratches chin*… yes, yes… you are on the right tracks here Cal…. but do you know the quickest and easiest way to get manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products? Yes that’s right! Tax the ones that do have high sugar content in them!!! We got there in the end, didn’t we!?
Again on the brighter side, there were nearly an equal numbers of letters supporting the sugar tax, but it is harder to make fun of them as they have logically sound arguments put forward so we’ll leave those ones alone 🙂
yet more opinions on the sugar tax!
Well that’s the public “done”. What about the more scholarly amongst us, who are paid to write words on a page and therefore expected to put up some pretty strong facts or logic to back up their opinions? Let’s ‘ave a look shall we?
I haven’t even bothered reading this FT opinon piece on it (because it’s behind a paywall or I have to answer a bloody questionnaire to read it, no thanks) but the sub title gives us a good insight as to what garbage may be concealed inside:
Why target only sugary drinks when we also gorge on sweets, cakes, takeaways and booze?
What a ridiculously shit argument that is. Can you imagine the first lawmakers when civilisation was developing proposing outlawing, say, murder, and someone piping up with: “Why target murder when theft, vandalism and assault are also rife?!!”. And as far as I am aware Jamie has never said he only wanted to target sugary drinks, simply that it was a good place to start (i.e. see #7 in my list above!)
Now onto the New Statesmen, who reckons that a sugar idea is “classist”. A big WTF already on the title there, I can’t really argue against this point as it seems like a rather abstract argument so let’s dig further to see what they’re actually on about:
…the sugar tax will just be a tax on the poor…
… This tax would be one that either capitalises on the poverty that has forced people into poor diets in the first place, or restricts their already very limited freedom.
Really, are you serious? So Coca-Cola is cheaper than water now is it? Seriously, that is the only argument needed IMO to blow this whole shit-can of an article out of the water but let’s continue in the interests of fairness…
If our Lord and Saviour Jamie Oliver wants people to stop eating so much crap, he should campaign for better welfare.
It has been shown time and again that the signal people respond to the strongest by a long measure is price. I don’t see how giving people more money to buy even more crap food is going to help them. Next!
If he wants people to eat less sugar, he should fight for more breakfast clubs in schools so students don’t go and buy a Galaxy at break because they’re hungry.
And where does little Jonny five bellies get the money for the Galaxy in the first place? I thought you said these people were on the breadline!? If the Galaxy cost far more than say, an apple, then maybe he’d have to buy the apple instead. D’uh!!!
Campaign against the squeeze on the NHS and nurses’ pay, so those families with working parents can afford your harissa chicken salads over another ready meal.
Well laa-dee-dah. What kind of make believe world is this person living in when they think that someone is choosing ready meals over harissa chicken salads simply on price grounds alone!? 🙂
Maybe the sugar tax would work, but if we’re living in a society where someone has to choose between having a Sprite and feeding their kid, I don’t think obesity is our biggest issue.
I really don’t think that is the choice people are facing (and if it is, then WTF are they playing at!). For those morons that are actually buying sugary drinks over other real foods then they should be priced out of the market on cans of pop. The simplest solutions are often the best, non?
Look, I admit, that last article was a particularly easy target as it seems the author has just decided to take their pre-existing political views and squeeze them into a current news story, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. For the record I’m not against campaigning against NHS pay or for more breakfast clubs (on the contrary in fact), I just think people should stick to the bloody point in question! And crucially all of the things mentioned would not be harmed in any way by the introduction of a sugar tax, for example NHS pay will not have to drop because of a sugar tax. Those two things seem so unrelated I don’t really see why they are on the same page.
what do you think of the sugar tax?
Well I think I’ve made my views pretty clear here… 🙂
What about you? Do you support the sugar tax? Why/Why not? Let me know!
- We went to a charity gig the other day and as well as donating I thought sharing the link on here was the least I could do. Please note that the charity night raised about £11,000 so don’t worry too much that there is only £30 at the time of writing on the just giving page! But still if you can spare a few quid, that would be bloody marvelous of you. Thanks! ↩
- I am starting to think I should read this more often as it has provided some great material for this post!!! ↩