Tuesday, 22 March 2016

What will be the consequence of the sugar tax ?

There have been many articles and blog posts about the recent sugar tax. This is from Guido Fawkes:

"Jamie Oliver is all over the BBC celebrating his punitive sugar tax but this is sweet hypocrisy. On his website, Jamie offers a series of recipes aimed at children. A bowl of granola for a child’s breakfast, advertised as "a healthy and delicious start to the day", contains an unbelievable 20.9g of sugar. That’s 23% of an adult’s daily recommended intake, and this is supposed to be for a child."

And this is from the Behavioural Insights Team (Nudge Unit):

"One of the most striking announcements in this week’s UK budget was the introduction of a new ‘soft drinks levy’ (quickly dubbed the sugar tax), which will come into force in 2018."

"New taxes aren’t usually associated with the Behavioural Insights Team partly because BIT’s preference is to find simpler, non-regulatory solutions before reaching for regulatory levers; but also because changing people’s economic incentives by imposing a tax is not a ‘nudge’ in the classic definition."

"But we think that taxes can have an important role to play in encouraging behavioural change, especially when combined with other measures (think about the effect of tax on smoking). We also think that behavioural science can teach us a huge amount about how the levy should be implemented, and what its effects are likely to be..."

"We often think about behavioural change in terms of how we influence individual behaviour. But there is growing recognition that the some of the biggest health benefits can be achieved through product reformulation by producers... "

"Because it is already possible to replace sugar with low-calorie sweeteners, producers are likely to respond by reformulating their existing products. And we think that this will be where we are likely to see the biggest health impacts..."

I think they both miss the point which is that sugar has been part of the diet for a very long time. Look at photographs from the sixties, for example, where young people were generally slim whereas today there is a high preponderance of obesity in young people.

If sugar is part of the story, which it most likely is, that is because high levels of sugar and fats have been sneaked into processed foods of every kind; and that includes foods that are supposed to be good for us.

Nudging producers to introduce sugar substitutes into their products by way of taxation, in order to lower the price. takes no account of the fact that artificial sweeteners have not been properly tested and what evidence there is, suggests that they have very serious health implications for consumers. One such artificial sweetener is aspartame, a neurotoxin. (Note the name changes in order to hide it.)

When parliamentarians joked in Westminster about the `coke` (Coca Cola) tax - seemingly at the expense of George Osborne - were they really believing the joke was on us, the consumers ?

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