Should there be a Tax on Junk Food?

Academics have insisted that the Coalition should tax fatty and sugary foods, as they caution that by 2030, nearly half of all adults in Britain will be obese.

According to public health experts, much stronger systems are needed to stop the increasing cases of obesity.

In the study that was published in The Lancet, in 2008, 26% of British women and men were obese, but if historical trends continue, the figure could rise to 46% by 2030 which means that, in less than 20 years time, there could be an additional 11 million obese people.

This is a worrying number because people who are overweight tend to suffer much more from heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Not only could people suffer with more problems, but so would the NHS. Obesity could cost the state £32 billion a year by 2050, which is almost a third of today’s NHS budget.

For most food, there is currently no VAT. It would be politically fraught if this was to change, as with the rising cost of other things like restaurant insurance UK, minimum wage increases, tighter rules and regulations, businesses have already been affected. However, the main reason is because it would hit poorer homes the hardest.

Taxing unhealthy drink and food would save governments billions by reducing obesity-related illness, as well as bringing in revenue, says Professor Steven Gortmaker from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Gortmaker calculated that a tax about unhealthy food would save California about $1.5 billion (around £1 million) a year with their population of 37 million people.

According to Gortmaker, his analysis showed a ‘fat tax’ was the single most effective measure, in terms of lives saved, followed by traffic light food labelling, and tighter control of advertising junk food to children.

Oxford University Professor, Klim McPherson, who also worked on the obesity forecasts, has condemned the Coalition ministers for believing that they could fix the obesity problems without radical action.

Denmark has put a tax on their unhealthy food, but it doesn’t seem likely that Britain will follow suit.

The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said that “rather than nannying people we will nudge them”. He added that “Nudges are very important. Tax is not a nudge, tax is a shove.”

Many would feel a food tax – even on unhealthy products – to be a tax on living. Deciding what or how to tax would also be a minefield.”

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