In the same way as taxing cigarettes helped to reduce smoking and related illnesses, could raising the price of junk food by
taxation - as Denmark has done - cut obesity rates in the UK?
That's the million dollar question government officials are asking today. The United Kingdom is the
fattest nation in Europe, with one third of children and two-thirds of
adults are overweight or obese, reports the UK Department of Public Health.
The study predicted that if no action was taken to curb the intake of
'junk foods', 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children would be
obese by 2050.
Obesity can have a severe
impact on people’s health, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, some
cancers, and heart and liver disease, says medical experts.
The present concern facing
the UK government is the future burden on the NHS - direct costs caused
by obesity are estimated to be £4.2 billion per year and forecast to
more than double by 2050 if we carry on as we are. We want people to
know that they can change their lifestyle and make a difference to
their health, said UK Public Health Officials.
In countries like Denmark,
where there is a added tax for junk food, Officials said there are
signs that obesity among younger children is actually falling for the
first time in 60 years. But adult obesity is still on the increase and
the government is anxious to reverse that trend.
"We've been relying on and emphasising self-responsibility for the last
50 years and it doesn't work," Charlotte Kira Kimby, of the Danish
Heart Foundation told BBC news.
"We know that sugar and fat are really what causes obesity to increase.
So to target taxes makes sense and should have an impact on health,"
Obesity expert Professor Peter Kopelman of the Royal College of
Physicians argues that the UK could learn a lesson from the lean Danes.
He believes that there is a clear parallel with the taxation of cigarettes.
Kopelman said: "When cigarettes were taxed, you found that there was an
immediate decline in the number that were bought. We also saw that
there was a decline in the diseases that complicate cigarette smoking.
I think there are lessons to learn for unhealthy food," said the report
on the BBC television news channel.
It is too early to tell
whether the Danish experiment, on the taxation of 'junk foods', will be
successful but at least they have time on their side. UK officials say
the clock is ticking in Britain and will continue too until steps are
taken to slow or discourage the consumption of unhealty foods high in
fat and sugars.
The Health Secretary Andrew
Lansley is due to publish a white paper on public health for England
shortly. In it, he will lay out his strategy for tackling obesity,
according to the BBC news.
"For now it seems, any idea of a junk food tax is already off the
table. Nudges are very important. Tax is not a nudge, tax is a shove,"
"If you start down the route of taxation, quite often you get quite a
lot of push back against that. The public do not think it's our job to
be trying to tell people what to do."
I don't really see a difference in whether they tax it or not. Its kind of like saying if the government legalized marijuana, sold it and taxed it in stores...that people would quit smokin it. Nope, not going to happen...junk food is an addiction. If it were taxed more, I would just go buy it at the cheapest place. I will buy a bag of doritos for $5 at a corner store, if that corner store were to tax it, I would just buy them at a less expensive place...Cost doesn't matter to me when it comes to junk food...