We previously articulated how a so-called sugar tax would do little other than stigmatise people when it is personal choices made through education that has the longest implications for changing health standards in the UK.
Top-down impositions have always been the orthodox of governments who see the NHS tax bill and want to do something about preventable illnesses. It’s an ambition hindered only by the fact that people will do what they want to do anyhow and generally speaking don’t give much calculation to food content when they’re tired and doing the weekly shop after a long week.
Food taxes, much like proposed minimum-pricing for alcohol, is a questionable course of action because the effectiveness is decidedly unproven. It’s the actions of governments and policy masters who want to try to do something and effect the most convenient, most immediate change to a spiralling problem.
The issue is where does the logic end? If people in power believe themselves to be morally placed to incentivize us to turn away from what’s bad for us then surely others in the food and drink industry have a responsibility too?
Why do restaurants, cafes and bars not have menus with mandatory statements of what precisely is the nutritional merit of what they’re offering? Should these establishments charge more for foods which are unhealthy in the same way governments presume higher costs for drinks and sugary items will deter, or certainly reduce, our preponderance to buy them?
The honest answer is that it’s not done because it sounds ridiculous. But then again so does a so-called sugar tax. Volume of and how often you consume something are what determine physical consequences. There is no way to police variance in a population beyond generalisations and clichés.
Perhaps the problem is the NHS itself. Because it is state controlled politicians and citizens are approaching health from different angles toward the same acknowledgement. The former believe that because it is in their purvey, because public money is going into it that they have a right to control and dictate as they please. Citizens on the other hand take the view that they’re paying for it with their salary contributions and are entitled to health care whatever lifestyle and health decisions they’ve taken in their lives.
From our perspective education, education and education is the only sensible approach to changing lifestyle habits. This approach shares the unfortunate similarity with changing environmental habits: it will take years to observe any discernible alteration that could be attributed to educating demographics. In an age of 24 news and constant observations and debates about politics this is a boring, unsensational and an entirely unpolitical approach. But it is the right one. ‘Sit back and watch’ is how detractors would call these kind of policies, but slow change is the right change rather than ill thought out proposals that seem to think taxing something will make people use or not use it.