Why Britain needs a sugar tax

THE CONSERVATIVE Government is making a habit of flip-flopping its decisions – and they have proved this once again with their obesity strategy, announcing it will shelve any decision-making on a sugar tax until the Summer.

A noble approach to bide time? Or a cunning tactic waiting for the fuss to die down? We may never know, but at least it appears David Cameron’s previously unwavering stance on a sugar tax is not as definite as first thought.

This may be due to the increasing public support after Jamie Oliver, love-him-or-loathe-him, racked up 155,000 signatures on a pro-sugar tax petition.

Research from 2013 has demonstrated a worrying rise in childhood obesity. Twenty per cent of boys, and seventeen per cent of girls were found to become overweight or obese by Year 6 in England, Scotland and Wales, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and other serious health issues. So something must be done to combat this.

Global obesity figures also remain sky high, with the World Health Organisation reporting that 42 million children aged under five are obese or overweight. This figure will keep exponentially rising to 60 million by 2020 if something isn’t done sooner rather than later.

Even the Government’s own advisory body Public Health England agrees, having made a case for a sugar tax back in October.

As part of their proposed obesity campaign, they warn that five-year-olds should be consuming approximately five sugar cubes a day. But on average, children are consuming three times this, meaning that over the course of a year a child aged between four and ten will eat around three and half stone’s worth of sugar cubes – the average weight of a five-year-old.

The Government’s choice to delay its decision once again has therefore not been made in the best interests of obese children. Instead, it has been made in the hope that the media hype and publicity will have died down by the Summer, giving it the time and opportunity to change its mind back once again.

Or maybe the Health Secretary just has too much on his plate already with the junior doctors’ crisis.

Either way, Jeremy Hunt is doing nothing to reassure the public he has control of Britain’s health problems and delaying a decision on obesity strategy will only sustain the health risks for our nation’s young children.The government’s obesity strategy needs more nourishment rather than less (ironically) and delaying any decision will only increase the amount of pressurising research already mounting on Jeremy Hunt’s desk.

A sugar tax won’t combat the problem by itself though and of course other measures will be needed. Restricting unhealthy food advertising, improving children’s education and adding extra initiatives for food companies will also be implemented – but they need to be effected now, otherwise young people’s waistlines won’t be slimming down anytime soon.

The nation’s children are getting fatter as we speak.

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