Monday 5 December 2016

Sugar tax is better than the cost of obesity to the taxpayer

Published 13/09/2016 | 02:30

A child sits on the gym floor during a program for overweight children. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
A child sits on the gym floor during a program for overweight children. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The arguments against the introduction of a sugar tax promulgated by the sugar industry are boringly predictable. As with their cousins in the tobacco and alcohol industries, they claim State intervention will threaten jobs and won't work. While we should be open to evidence when it comes to the efficacy of a sugar tax in combating obesity, vested interests who put forward the "jobs" argument in the face of a major public health issue tend to make me suspicious.

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The proposed tax has been criticised as regressive - a major review of the impact of sugar taxation found it to be only mildly regressive. The State could subsidise healthier foods to make things a little easier for poorer families. Also, the cost of obesity to taxpayers, which could be described as a deferred tax - a UOC (Universal Obesity Charge) - is conveniently ignored.

The 'Nanny State' argument is another put forward by opponents, but the sugar industry's 'Sugar Daddy' (ie, the State) will foot the health service bill for the predicted national obesity epidemic. One in four children in Ireland is obese. According to a recent study published 'The Lancet', along with our neighbours, Ireland is set to become the most obese country in Europe within a decade.

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