Could you stomach a fat tax?

The other night I watched a rather good episode of Panorama called ‘Taxing the Fat’. For those who didn’t catch it, despite what the title might suggest it didn’t actually go down the obvious route.

It didn’t suggest that the very obese should pay more towards their own self-inflicted health problems – although they probably should. It didn’t suggest that mobility scooters should be limited to those who really deserve them – although they probably should. It didn’t even suggest that those who weigh more than a set of monogrammed Louis Vuitton suitcases should have to pay excess baggage – although they probably should.

No, rather the program was suggesting that everyone, regardless of their weight or size, should have to pay that little bit more for calorie-laden, high-fat, nutritionally devoid substances. The sort of food and drinks that serve no other purpose in life other than to fill us up quick, make us happy and pile on the pounds.

Unsurprisingly rather a lot of people are a tad concerned, no, let’s make that downright horrified at the very idea. But they shouldn’t be.

Don’t get me wrong,  I don’t particularly want to see the price of a chunky KitKat double overnight, but, as far as the principles of making certain foods a treat as opposed to a staple, I couldn’t agree with the theory more. The Danes have already imposed a ‘fat tax’ and it’s made them the healthiest bunch in Europe.

So how does that actually work for them you may wonder. Well, the forward thinking government over there has piled a 25% tax onto ice-cream, chocolate, sweets and soft-drinks, with margarine, oils, animal fats and high-fat dairy products to be targeted later on in the year. That’s not to say it’s all bad news of course, tax has also been decreased on sugar-free soft drinks.

But while it may have slimmed down their nation’s waistlines, can you imagine the outcry over here if Cameron N’ Clegg dared to try and stop people eating like pigs. Which is, after all, the whole point of such a tax.

People would be striking left, right and centre and coming out with all sorts:
They don’t have the right to dictate what I eat. They can’t police my fridge. They can’t make me healthy if I don’t want to be. They can’t prevent me eating my weight in pizza every night.

But why can’t they? The government already has to use taxes to pay for the disability allowances and stomach stapling operations that people who simply can’t and won’t stop eating say they need, so why not try some alternative funding?

After all cigarettes and alcohol are taxed are they not? And while you may say, but that’s because they’re drugs and bad for your health, well so’s food really. Well it certainly is for those who seem determined to eat their way to diabetes and a very large, early grave.

Of course those who live on junk and junk alone will always give the same excuse for doing so – it’s cheap.  And those who protest against taxing unhealthy food will always say the same thing – it’s not fair. Rubbish and simply not true.

The argument that lower-income families need BOGOF bargain basement food to just survive is a very flawed one indeed. Experts may well claim that the cost of such foods are ‘cheaper per calorie’ than healthier options (and therefore cost you less to fill your tummy) but when these cheaper calories are empty calories then surely that theory is knocked on the head.

Besides which, if you choose to stock your trolley with nothing but rubbish, processed junk and microwaveable crap, and fill your body with nothing but saturated fats, sugar and salt, then let’s be honest, it isn’t all about the low-cost is it. It’s about being bloody lazy.

To sum it all up, there was a woman on the program who came out with an observational gem that went something along the lines of this: “But if they put up the prices then we won’t be able to buy a multi-bag of crisps for ₤1 anymore..”

Yes dear, that is kind of the point.


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