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Something smells off about the Government's sugar tax reluctance

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A dozen jam doughnuts, two litres of full-sugar cola, a multipack of crisps and a family sized pork pie.

Eric Pickles’ mid-morning snack?

Well it might be, but on this occasion it was actually the contents of a patient’s shopping basket.

Not any old patient either, a patient that two days previously, during his diabetic check, had  been at a loss to explain his rampant weight gain and soaring HbA1C.

‘I eat like a mouse,’ he’d insisted. Yes - a 100kg one with a life-threatening kebab habit.

What the obese population does not need is a wide variety of cheap, fat laden, sugar-rich food available pretty much everywhere. Why is this acceptable?

Going into the shop local to our surgery always leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand it gives you a good insight into patients’ unhealthy habits, on the other it feels a bit intrusive and voyeuristic, a bit like taking a sneak peek into David Cameron’s cold meat store. You are curious, but  you think what people get up to in their own time is their business.

Now I know weight loss is not easy. I have lost nearly 20kg myself over the last few years and there is no quick fix. What I have learned is that you can dress it up as you please - 5:2 diets, Atkins, point counting - but ultimately it all boils down to two words: eat less.

Simple to say and hard to do.

Unlike ex-smokers and recovering alcoholics, the food addict does not have the option of abstinence, they still have to eat but differently.

What the obese population does not need is a wide variety of cheap, fat laden, sugar-rich food available pretty much everywhere. Why is this acceptable?

Tobacco, has been made expensive, increasingly harder to buy and increasingly less socially acceptable to smoke in any public place. This has led to fewer smokers - a good result.

However, the exact opposite of all those statements could be made about junk food.

A report recently published in the Guardian concluded a sugar tax would help reduce childhood obesity. What is curious, during an obesity epidemic, is the fact it appears the publication of this report had been supressed by the Government. Now a more suspicious man than me might suspect the Government has some rich friends with some big fingers in some very sticky pies in the food industry. But of course that would be mere speculation.

Something does smell though and it’s not the sweet aroma of candyfloss.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London 

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Readers' comments (6)

  • If you put prices up then the retail price index goes up and then welfare benefits and pensions go up etc etc etc etc etc etc.

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  • Politicians do not give a toss about other people, period.

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  • The smoking ban was the best thing the last Labour government did, and think they underestimated the benefits that we're now seeing. No-one in their right mind would suggest this were now reversed.
    This does seem a bit of a no-brainer - agree it's very suspicious that politicians do not want to progress with this - especially as the NHS is under such pressure.
    Could the tax itself be used to increase funding to the NHS (or better still, public health) - that would be a double benefit?

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  • Can we just stop with taxing everything.
    Should we tax products rich in salt or high fat content?
    At what point do people have to start taking responsibility for themselves including what they eat?
    This 'government/doctor knows it all' attitude is part of what is ruining this country and the health system and people have outsourced their thinking and sense of responsibility to the government and government agencies.
    Trying to compare anti-smoking campaign with introducing 'sugar tax' is complete apples and oranges.

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  • Self-responsibility never works; that's why the nanny state has to step in and why General practice is in dire straights...

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  • If the tax was applied on a traffic light system (+20% red, 0% Amber, -20% green) then we could properly incentivise healthy eating, but the food industry lobby has blocked this all the way, and whilst they remain in cahoots with government it will never happen.

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