Thursday, March 12, 2009

BBC Today - chocolate tax

Today Programme : (ctrl+chocolate) "Chocolate should be taxed in the same way as alcohol and cigarettes to tackle increasing levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes, a Scottish GP says. GP and food scientist Dr David Walker, who will argue the case before the BMA's Scottish Medical Committee, and Professor Roger Corder, of Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, discuss if this is a practical proposal."

Of course sugar should be taxed. It definitely causes dental caries, and there is evidence for its involvement in the causation of obesity, diabetes, childhood hyperactivity and a tail of other conditions.

Green Party Conference considered a motion to put a tax on sugar about 3 years ago, but the Handbrake Tendency succeeded on getting it rejected on the grounds of "nanny statism" and "discrimination against home made jam".

Pity, otherwise we would be ahead of the game.

Clearly, the Polluter Pays and Producer Responsibility principles clearly support the idea of a sugar tax. It could be hypothecated to the NHS dentistry service, and also to supporting research to settle the question of the other problems with sugar.


weggis said...

Like tax on cigarettes and alcohol has worked?

Why not tax crisps and pies?

DocRichard said...

Hi Weg (may I call you Weg?)
Tax hikes on commodities are followed by a temporary depression in sales. In the recession, price sensitivity may be increased, as people work to budgets, and it will make more healthy food more competitive.

The classic example is the old Window Tax, which had the adverse effect of causing people to brick up their windows.

The argument usually brought against such specific taxes is that the tax base will wither away as people stop buying. If so, so much the better. This is unlikely to happen, as, like cigarettes and tobacco, sugar and especially chocolate is mildly addictive, so the tax will be sustainable, as you suggest.

However, the main effect will be to generate money for NHS dentistry and research into other adverse effects of sugar which is both just and beneficial.

So let's hear it for the sugar tax. It will only take about 20 years to bring in, thanks to the prodigious lobbying powers of the Sugar Council.



weggis said...

I've been called worse.

I have to challenge you on the "Generate money" bit, but it will certainly increase revenues for the Treasury. What they spend [sic!] it on is another matter.

DocRichard said...

The Treasury is averse to hypothecation, but the people are not. Many people would not mind the Road Tax and fuel tax if they went to public transport. The Treasury objects that tax income varies, but subsidies need to be regular. Answer: top up the hypothecated take with sums from the general Treasury budget.