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TALKBACK everyone’s talking about . . .


taxing sugar T


he average UK adult now weighs 9kg more than they did a generation ago, and this is contributing to a


rising incidence of heart disease and diabetes. With the country fattening up so quickly, do we need some drastic action – a tax on sugar, for example? Is such an immediate impact on people’s pockets more likely than education to make them sit up and listen? Could such a tax be effective in


reducing public consumption of fi zzy drinks, confectionery and junk food? Or would it simply mean an increase in the cost of living, as staples like bread become more expensive? Perhaps


jeff ritterman richmond (united states) city council • member


“A


penny per ounce tax on sugar- sweetened beverages might


be the single most effective measure to reverse the obesity epidemic. If Richmond is successful in introducing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, I think the dominoes will fall rapidly, with other cities following suit and the first law suits against the beverage industry.


Our proposed tax, which goes to a public ballot in


November, was prompted by data showing that one-third of our Latino and African-American fifth to seventh graders are obese, with 20 per cent more in each category being overweight. Health-wise, we have a tsunami coming. Drinks are a good place to start, as the beverages we’re taxing


have no nutritional value. There’s also more scientific data linking these drinks to obesity, type 2 diabetes and coronaries than with baked goods. There have been challenges: Big Soda has opened an office to go against us and I don’t think we can win without US$100,000 to spend. It’s a massive challenge, but it’s also very simple. If people switch from soda to tap water, they’ll save money and become thinner and healthier. The city will also have an extra US$3m to spend on health interventions.


” 30


kath hudson • journalist • health club management


It tastes so good, but our love of all things sweet is having a devastating effect: obesity is killing our nation, and others around the world, both physically and economically. Is it time for a tax on sugar?


revenue generated from such a tax could be channelled into the NHS to help it cope with the cost of obesity. Governments have traditionally


been intimidated by the powerful food and beverage industries, yet more are starting to take them on with taxation. Last December, the French government introduced a tax on Pepsi and Coca-Cola, while earlier this year, Denmark brought in a tax on fat. New York and Richmond, Virginia, are


blazing a trail in the US, with proposed taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks. Jeff Ritterman, a member of Richmond City Council who is the driving force behind the proposed tax, says education alone


isn’t enough. “As with tobacco and car seatbelts, there needs to be some stick to go with the carrot: after all, sugar is highly addictive,” he explains. A former cardiologist, Ritterman


says there’s new science to back up his campaign. He says the reason fi zzy drinks are so dangerous is that fructose, on its own, can’t be metabolised by the liver. Instead it turns it into fat and cholesterol. He even suggests fruit juices will be taxed at some point, as the fi bre from the fruit is stripped away, leaving the fructose highly concentrated. So has the time come for


governments to take on the food and beverage industry? We ask the experts.


HAS THE TIME COME TO INTRODUCE A SUGAR TAX? EMAIL US: HEALTHCLUB@LEISUREMEDIA.COM


phillip mills les mills international • ceo


part to play in slowing the obesity epidemic. With tobacco, a combination of higher taxes, high-profile advertising and social pressure made a huge difference. But it took 50 years to halve the rate of smoking. We don’t have that time now.


“T The simplest way to tax junk food is to tax sugar, which


is the key villain. I’d like to see a tax-shifting policy where higher taxes on junk food are offset by lower taxes on fresh fruit and vegetables and healthier foods. As a fitness industry, our first responsibility is to motivate


people to exercise by making our facilities more fun, social and educational. We can educate our members to eat better via social media, newsletters, seminars and direct advice. As part of our broader contribution to society, we should


be lobbying governments not only to tax junk food, but also to create incentives for exercise, to create healthier cities with cycle and walking facilities, and to drive exercise as a part of educational curricula. And one more simple thing: let’s get the junk food out of our schools!


” Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital september 2012 © cybertrek 2012


axing bad food isn’t the whole answer, but it has an important


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