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Tax on fizzy drinks and curb on takeaway outlets to fight obesity: good idea or not?

(206 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 18-Feb-13 17:20:19


Today, doctors are calling on the government to levy an experimental 20% tax on sugary soft drinks and to make local councils limit the number of fast-food outlets outside schools, colleges and leisure centres - to help prevent the UK's obesity crisis becoming "unresolvable".

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (which represents nearly every doctor in the UK) says it wants measures like these brought in to break the cycle of "generation after generation falling victim to obesity-related illnesses and death".

One in four adults in England is obese, and predictions are that obesity rates will soon rise to 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children.

The British Retail Consortium has countered by saying it's wrong to "demonise" fast-food outlets and it's down to parents to help children "build a healthy and responsible attitude to eating a balanced diet overall".

What do you think?

Do we all need measures like the doctors are suggesting to help us - and our children - stay at a healthy weight?

Or should we be left alone to eat - and feed our children - whatever we choose?

CloudsAndTrees Mon 18-Feb-13 18:34:52

I thnk it's a good idea to have a 'sugar tax', clearly something needs to be done.

But how will it work with diet drinks? If they remain at the same price while their full sugar versions get more expensive, then people will just but the diet versions and end up with all sorts of other health problems from too much aspartame and whatever other sweetners are used. So I'd like some clarification on that before I can fully support it.

The tax needs to be applied to plenty of other things though, not just fizzy drinks.

I'd like to see an age restriction on fizzy drinks, and especially on energy drinks.

RedToothBrush Mon 18-Feb-13 18:50:51

Its a terrible idea.

Why? Because it means that instead of sugary drinks, 'sugar-free' drinks with artificial sweeteners in will be even more commonplace.

And sweeteners have been scientifically shown in several recent studies to make people put on even more weight than their full sugar counterparts.

Total genius idea. hmm

fanoftheinvisibleman Mon 18-Feb-13 18:52:05

Sittinginthesun, the problem with comparing things like for like is that a duff car on the road being driven over the limit is not just endangering the driver but also others. The state intervening about individual decision which can affect others sucj as the ones you mentioned are different. But your own health is your own responsibility.

Piemother Mon 18-Feb-13 18:55:29

I think action is required but its treating the outcome not the cause.
I think the tax is a good idea but I would like the cash spent on mandatory life skills lessons in schools which include cooking on a budget/nutrition (but user friendly not abstract science) as well as how to manage in adult life (bit getting in debt/plug wiring and lots of other stuff). I do thi m that perhaps we gave raised a generation of incompetent adults because I doubt many obese people want to be that way hmm

Shellington Mon 18-Feb-13 18:58:49

I thought diet drinks were a factor in obesity, diet coke being a prime example? Am not sure of the science behind it, something to do with the sweeteners / cravings confused

I would be interested to hear what dentists' views are about the proposals, they must see a more immediate and tangible result of poor diet / lots of sugar more than doctors.

However, it is much more to do with lifestyles - having a car / computer / sedentary job / internet shopping / labour-saving gadgets - one 'quick fix' will surely only address a percentage of the cause.

JollyRedGiant Mon 18-Feb-13 19:00:40

Our local authority does not allow hot food or ice cream vans to trade within 400m of a secondary school. They have no jurisdiction over shops though.

I think everything should be VATted unless it is totally free from additives.

These things should be tax free:
Unprocessed Meat
No salt/sugar bread
No salt/sugar breakfast cereals
Processed fruit (without additives)
Processed meat (without additives)

These things should be heavily taxed:
Anything with added salt
Anything with added sugar
Anything with E numbers or artificial sweeteners

MadBusLady Mon 18-Feb-13 19:04:01

That's a good point about diet drinks redtoothbrush/shellington. I was assuming this would be all fizzy drinks, but the industry would be bound to argue the diet ones are "better" and I think that's bollocks.

bigbluebus Mon 18-Feb-13 19:04:15

Sorry but I don't agree with this proposal. I think people should be better educated about what to eat and drink including how few calories they need to consume compared with what they would get from take-away food and fizzy drinks. I would also prefer to see school children doing more exercise and sport - then they might actually car about what they put into their bodies.

I am sick to death of the nanny state trying to push up prices just to try and stop people buying things - it will not work. Not everyone who eats take-aways and drinks fizzy drinks is poor. I generally eat healthily, don't very often drink fizzy drinks, moderate my alcohol intake and I exercise vigorously 3 times a week. I don't see why I should have to pay more for my occasional 'treats' just because some people don't know how to moderate their intake of crap food.

And as for Doctors deciding this should happen - I assume they were all healthy eating, non alcohol drinking, non-smoking, regular exercise kind of doctors - as I have seen plenty of overweight, junk food eating, alcohol swilling doctors, who do no exercise in my time!!!! And overweight MPs too!

RedToothBrush Mon 18-Feb-13 19:17:50

It also doesn't help me as I do have a reaction to certain sweeteners...

Given that fruit juice is often very high in sugar, this may also have another negative health effect.

It does seem to be about ALL sugary drinks rather than just fizzy drinks from the news articles, I've seen on the subject too.

If doctors really want to dictate what people buy/eat then why not cut to the chase and really make it a nanny state, by having a weigh in at supermarket check outs. That would be targeting the people who have a problem...

... and no I'm not serious in the slightest with that idea. I think its just as ridiculous as this one though.

MyHeadWasInTheSandNowNot Mon 18-Feb-13 19:20:34

I think it's a terrible idea

The day we lay down and allow the government to tax foods that they think are 'bad for us' will be a very dark day.

Education & advertising - both fine.

Making companies stop using transfats/fructose other ingredients - fine.

But levying a tax on food a government thinks is bad for us 'NO' - even the top Drs can't agree on many things -whether they are good or bad for us... what kind of a mess will we be in if we let the govt make those decisons????

Oh and no agenda here - for the tiny bit of coke & tonic I buy in a year, doubling the price wouldn't bother me if I actually thought it would do anygood.

Limiting food outlets <shrug> whatever... not really bothered either way.

No BigBlueBus they won't be - but they will still be able to afford to buy whatever they choose & dine out in expensive restaurants.

swallowedAfly Mon 18-Feb-13 19:21:29

good point - would fat mps and doctors be slim if coke was 10p more a can and there were 10% less takeaways?

it's idiotic.

there's nothing wrong with the occasional takeaway or the occasional fizzy drink (champagne anyone). but if you ban transfats and glucose fructose syrups they will be healthier as will all the other fat inducing products they stuff them in including children's yoghurts that market themselves as 'healthy'.

there is so much data to say that these need banning and are major players in the mass expansion of obesity figures.

it would definitely be effective.

i cannot comprehend taxing a sugary drink but allowing it to be filled with glucose fructose syrup.

sieglinde Mon 18-Feb-13 19:22:43

I'm for a tax on fizzy drinks. They are really unnecessary - like fags and booze and the stuff that attracts a luxury tax. They and every other kind of junk should also attract VAT. So all chocolates, confectionary, crisps.

Mimsy, agree the cost of food has rocketed, but benefits have too. In 1980 I was on the dole and I used to have a food budget of 5 quid a week. Not enough for soft drinks grin.

I used to work in a Coke factory - you DON'T want to know what really goes into it. A woman was dragged into a machine and killed before my eyes... People who fret over battery chickens probably never consider the human cost of the nice clean soda. Nor the mice in the bottles. A bit of horse meat would have been a relief.

RedToothBrush Mon 18-Feb-13 19:24:32

Oh, and the idea that is also part of this proposal:

'Food labels to include calorie information for children' is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

They already do this for adults saying that an average woman's calorie intake should be 2000 calories a day. The trouble is this mythical average woman doesn't actually exist. Many women, like me, need far fewer calories; many women will need more. It simply depends on how big you are and how active you are. There is no magic calorie figure. These figures are totally meaningless in the real world.

So all in all, I think that whoever these doctors are who dreamt up these proposals they should loose their jobs. They are supposed to be intelligent. And yet these suggestions have been made up by a bunch of absolute idiots.

All it will do, is raise a extra few quid for the treasury, not educate anyone, not solve any problems and make everyone out there poorer all round.

Idiots. Total idiots.

Yfronts Mon 18-Feb-13 19:38:32

I think a lot of parents are badly educated and can't cook. I think the government needs to take every possible step to ensure the nations health is better.

ArcticRoll Mon 18-Feb-13 19:42:07

Think it is excellent idea.

Tee2072 Mon 18-Feb-13 19:44:48

Nope. It's not up to the government to decide for me what I should eat.

Also, cheaper food? Why do you think they are finding horse in mince? How soon before it's found everywhere? Why? Because people want cheap food.

Cheap food is made cheaply.

Too much government interference as it is. Stay out of my kitchen and my bedroom.

ICBINEG Mon 18-Feb-13 19:45:16

Agree about the averages being for shit.

I wonder if everyone could do a day in a calorimeter and get a more reasonable estimate of their own personal calorie balance?

kids must need even more wildly different intakes than adults.

happybubblebrain Mon 18-Feb-13 19:48:15

It won't work. It's a stupid idea.

People will still be obese if they eat too much. You'd have to put a levy on all foods to stop people from eating more than they need. As long as people have fridges full of food there will be overweight people. Takeaways and fizzy drinks are not the culprits. Eating too much of anything will make you fat, including homecooked "healthy" food. If you are going to put a levy on takeaway chips you'd have to put a levy on cooking oil and potatoes because people will just make their own chips when the takeways get too expensive.

happybubblebrain Mon 18-Feb-13 19:52:23

hmm and confused at yet another genius government plan.

PolkadotCircus Mon 18-Feb-13 20:00:53

I think it's a fantastic idea and waaaaay overdue.In actual fact I think it needs to go further.

Processed foods high in fat,sugar and crap should have some kind of flash across them so you can just walk on by easily. Fed up with scrolling through ingredients and trying to work out figures in the midst of a shop.Said food manufactures would then work hard to ensure their products didn't have to carry said label.

Oh and supermarkets should be made to put all the cereal below 20g of sugar in 100g on one shelf so we don't have to spend ages searching through-it's like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Tee2072 Mon 18-Feb-13 20:10:20

BTW, has there been any research done to see how many people have quit smoking just because of the price of cigarettes? It's certainly not why I quit.

ICBINEG Mon 18-Feb-13 20:14:22

So erm no drinking of fizzy drinks indoors might be a better plan?

<might not be as mad as it sounds>

ICBINEG Mon 18-Feb-13 20:15:16

On the one hand I don't think putting up the price of fizzy drinks will change obesity levels.

On the other hand noone needs fizzy drinks in their diet so why not scrounge some much needed cash for the government?

MrsSonky Mon 18-Feb-13 20:20:04

Sugar is a major industry and has powerful lobbyists. Fat doesn't. I think that's why we've had such a drive to cut out fats from our diets. It's the easy target, and of course saturated fat does harm our bodies when taken in excess but does take the spotlight away from an alternative - sugar. Scientists now think sugar is far more problematic for our bodies, but we don't really hear about it.

I'm not suggesting everyone has a fry-up everyday but sugar is in everything. Just have a look at the back of some of the packets in your cupboards. Sucrose, fructose, dextrose, malt extract, invert sugar syrup. Just some of the lovelies I found in under a minute in my cupboard. The only one I couldn't find was high fructose corn syrup - give me time I'm sure it's in there somewhere.

We've all got a naturally sweet tooth and manufacturers exploit this. A low fat diet should be ideally between 5% - 10% per 100g but i haven't a clue about sugar. If you don't cook everything from scratch then I bet we all exceed whatever the recommended daily intake is.

Better education and a reduction across all products, not just fizzy drinks.

Snowkey Mon 18-Feb-13 20:20:13

The cost of cigarettes was certainly a big factor in why I quit, that and all the legislation that was progressively banning smoking in every square inch of the planet - it was just bloody easier to give up!

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