Thursday 8 December 2016

Sugary-drink tax is not a bad idea, providing it is done the right way

Published 08/10/2013 | 05:00

The latest 'Growing Up in Ireland' survey has revealed that one in four nine-year-olds in Ireland is overweight
The latest 'Growing Up in Ireland' survey has revealed that one in four nine-year-olds in Ireland is overweight

Should we tax the bejesus out of sugary soft drinks to get skinnier kids? The Government needs to think about new taxes to balance its books. One idea that now appears to have been discarded before the Budget is a tax on sugary soft drinks. The basic idea of such a tax is to raise prices on these products, reducing the amount consumed, in much the same way as cigarettes are taxed now.

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Beyond simply raising tax, from society's point of view our children are getting fatter, and overweight and obese citizens represent a public health problem. The latest 'Growing Up in Ireland' survey shows us our children are getting fatter, with one-in-four nine-year-olds overweight. Children from poorer families are much more likely to be obese than children from richer families.

So is a sugary, soft-drink tax a good idea? Should the State intervene in a private decision to consume something? The philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote in 1859 that: "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant."

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