Sugar tax ‘ key to fat loss’

Townsville Bulletin - - CLASSIFIEDS -

A TAX of about 70 pence ($ A1.50) per kilo­gram of sugar would re­duce de­mand and lead peo­ple to los­ing an av­er­age of 3.2kg in weight, while low­er­ing the in­ci­dence of type 2 di­a­betes by 13 per cent, in­ter­na­tional ex­perts say.

In a de­bate in a med­i­cal jour­nal, health ex­perts said the preva­lence of coro­nary heart dis­ease would also fall.

Sirpa Sar­lio- Lah­teenko­rva, ad­junct pro­fes­sor and Fin­nish min­is­te­rial ad­viser, quoted a 2011 study that con­cluded a tax on sugar gen­er­ally would be more ef­fec­tive than tar­get­ing spe­cific food cat­e­gories, such as a tax on sug­ary drinks.

The food in­dus­try may find this more ac­cept­able be­cause it would treat all sources equally and could also stim­u­late new prod­ucts with less sugar, which would then be li­able for less tax, she said. She said taxes on al­co­hol and to­bacco had been widely used for decades and re­duced con­sump­tion but food was a ne­ces­sity and im­prov­ing di­etary habits this way was more com­pli­cated than lim­it­ing al­co­hol or to­bacco use.

“A tax on sugar, prefer­ably with mea­sures that also tar­get sat­u­rated fat and salt and in­cen­tives for healthy eat­ing, would help,” she said.

“The food in­dus­try ar­gues that con­sump­tion taxes are in­ef­fec­tive, un­fair and dam­age the in­dus­try, lead­ing to job losses; sim­i­lar ar­gu­ments are used by big to­bacco.

“How­ever, tax­a­tion of com­modi­ties such as al­co­hol, to­bacco and un­healthy food seems jus­ti­fied when the bur­den of ill health is mostly paid for by so­ci­ety.”

Ar­gu­ing against the idea, J T Win­kler, emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of nutri­tion pol­icy at Lon­don Metropoli­tan Univer­sity, said “sugar taxes are un­likely to be adopted and would not make much dif­fer­ence if they were”.

He also high­lighted that Den­mark’s “fat tax” was abol­ished just a year af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced fol­low­ing “uni­ver­sal op­po­si­tion and wide­spread eva­sion”.

He sug­gested cut­ting prod­uct mar­gins on soft drinks could be an ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive. Com­pa­nies added ex­tra mar­gins on to sugar- free drinks, so they al­ways sold for the same price as the sug­ared al­ter­na­tive, he said. Cut­ting part of that mar­gin would cre­ate a price ad­van­tage for sugar- free drinks and “de­mand would shift, com­pa­nies would make more money and public health and pri­vate profit might for once push in the same di­rec­tion”.

DE­BATE: Health ex­perts blame too much sugar on a range of prob­lems.

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