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Could a sugar tax save Britain’s health?

Posted by: Patrick Catanzariti on February 9, 2016

Is obesity more common than you think? With 62% of British adults currently overweight or obese, it seems that being obese is actually quite normal.

And, with diet-related cancers set to rise by 45%, these are worrying times for everyone. According to a report in the Telegraph, those figures are likely to occur within the next two decades. It seems that the writers of the Disney film Wall-E were quite prophetic. Their portrayal of future humans being overweight and incapable of standing up are not too far off the mark.

The report highlights results of a study by Cancer Research UK. They say that a tax on sugary drinks is essential to ward off the coming crisis, which they call ‘alarming’. And, given the figures show that almost three-quarters of all British adults will be overweight, they have a valid point. Scarier, perhaps, is that their prediction that people at a healthy weight will make up far less than than a third of the population.

So, regarding the current crisis, what is going on? And, what should we be doing to fight it?

Pretty much every health body is showing concerns, from all types of specialist areas. Public Health England and Jamie Oliver are heavily involved, along with 20 royal medical schools and colleges. Researchers at Queen Mary’s University have said they believe less sugar content will mean a million less obese people. And the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology say that doing the same will prevent 300,000 cases of diabetes in the next twenty years.

A quick look through the statistics of the last 40 years proves we’re in the middle of a crisis. During the 1970s, obesity levels were around 3%. These days, it has shot up to 25% – and there are no signs of it stopping.

It’s clear that current policy isn’t working, and the more voices that join the debate, the more pressure it will put on the government. Only last year, David Cameron rejected a report on the benefits of a sugar tax without even reading it. The Prime Minister is, however, said to be keen on tackling the issue head on. The word from Parliament is that he would rather concentrate on advertising restrictions rather than a tax on sugar.

There is scope for a change of mind, however. Particularly as other countries have had great success when implementing a sugar tax. Take Mexico, for example. They have a 10% tax on sugary drinks, which has resulted in a 12% drop in sales volume. With drinks companies vehemently against reducing sugar content, perhaps a tax is the only way to convince them. Losing sales are their only priority, it seems, so forcing their arm may be the only way of getting through.

Obesity results in almost half a million cases of diet-related illness over a twenty year period.  It’s clear to everyone that more needs to be done.

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