Nanny state sugar taxes won’t defeat obesity – Jason Reed

ON paper, making Britain healthier is a noble ambition.

The Government's plans to tackle obesity will penalise the poor, argues Jason Reed.

But at present, our 
public health policy is being outsourced to a lobby of nanny statists who are 
using obesity as a stalking horse to 
push through all kinds of punitive 
choice-restricting lifestyle regulations which they have been touting for decades.

The latest onslaught comes from the National Food Strategy, penned by Henry Dimbleby, the Government’s food tsar and the millionaire founder of posh fast food chain Leon. Dimbleby is calling for, among other things, a new tax on salt and sugar.

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The thinking behind the policy is that it will force food manufacturers to reformulate their recipes to make them healthier.

The Government's plans to tackle obesity will penalise the poor, argues Jason Reed.

In reality, if there was some miraculous way to make those foods taste just as good without using sugar or salt, those food producers would have been doing it for years of their own accord. They would be billionaires by now.

All this tax would do is raise the cost of living for those who can least afford it. The National Food Strategy itself conservatively estimates that the policy would add a whopping £3.4bn a year onto our shopping bills.

It is troubling to see this nanny-state thinking spread into more and more areas of government.

It is difficult to get away from the idea that the health nannies are trying their hardest to price the poor out of everyday pleasures using the tired old ‘tobacco playbook’.

The Government's plans to tackle obesity will penalise the poor, argues Jason Reed.

It costs more to be poor.

The poverty premium is well-documented. Poorer people pay more for everything from energy to credit to insurance and face higher inflation rates. It’s a vicious cycle, too – being poor is expensive and having to spend extra money on essentials only drives people deeper into poverty.

The poor already spend a larger proportion of their disposable incomes on the non-essentials which make each day a little sweeter – a chocolate on your way home from work or a McDonald’s Happy Meal for the kids.

To an upper-middle-class observer like Henry Dimbleby, those small indulgences are disposable.

It is grossly unfair for a man like Henry Dimbleby, the son of David Dimbleby who embodies such a great deal of privilege, to look down on working people, accuse them of being ‘dependent’ on junk food and resort to punitive, regressive taxes aimed specifically at them in an effort to change their behaviour.

Dimbleby does not spare a thought for the working-class parents who are just trying to feed their children.

To him, the idea of having to budget your weekly shopping trip down to the penny is completely alien. What does he care if the price of Frosties goes up by 87p?

The few luxuries the poor still have access to are firmly in the sights of the nanny-state-obsessed public health authorities.

Whether it be through depriving people of choice, taxing things to make them unattainable or drowning them in red tape until they fade from the public eye (such as the ‘junk food’ advertising ban) the nannies will do whatever it takes to mould poorer people’s lifestyles into what they think they ought to be doing, even at the expense of their wallets and their welfare.

There is no thought given to the fact that people like their treats.

Life should not be a drudge, even if you’re poor.

Interventionist measures like these never work. Their health impact will be zero but their economic impact will be substantial.

Obesity is shaping up to be Britain’s next pandemic. If we are not careful, 
it could be even more damaging 
to our freedoms than the Covid pandemic.

Our public health authorities 
are asleep at the wheel – they have nothing new to contribute to this 
debate beyond the tired old ‘tobacco playbook’. It is high time for them to 
wake up.

Jason Reed is the founder of Young Voices UK and a policy fellow with the Consumer Choice Center. He tweets @JasonReed624.

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