1/4 of children on Island are overweight or obese at age 5, as are two thirds of adults – is sugar to blame?
It was recently reported that the UK have collected £153.8m in Sugar Tax since it’s introduction in April. The Sugar Tax is coming to the IoM next year, and the Treasury estimate it will generate £300,000. The money raised will be allocated to the Department of Health and Social Care. But is this the best way to tackle the problem?
We hear from a local resident who voices his concerns about the effectiveness of taxing specific foods…
As if Manx families are not already struggling with the high cost of food already, these arrogant nanny state snobs think that they know what is best for Manx people. They have decided that because we don’t eat enough “healthy” foods, we are not smart enough to make our own choices.
Imposing new taxes on so-called “unhealthy” food is bad for several reasons: it is morally wrong, it might cause harm, it fails to recognise that different people need different foods, and any consideration of new taxes on food is premature until the impact of the recently-implemented drinks tax has been analysed.
Firstly, and most importantly, humans have a moral right to control their own bodies. We are not merely rats in a maze, waiting to be poked and prodded to behave in a way that our masters think is best. Part of respecting the moral agency of humans is to acknowledge that different people have different tastes. We, as a society, give individuals the right to do dumb things, even if some other people know they might be harmful. For example, we even allow individuals to vote for power-hungry politicians who show disdain for their public. We allow humans to make their own choices because of a fundamental principle of respect for human decision making: If we are not fit to govern ourselves, then how can anyone be fit to govern others?
Not only is it morally wrong to control what other people eat, the so-called experts have a track record of being awful judges themselves.
Less than a hundred years ago, some experts thought that smoking helped to avoid obesity. Since World War 2, various governments across the world encouraged people to eat more grains and carbohydrates, and in doing so, played a key role in creating the most obese population in the history of humanity. In dynamic systems as complicated as the human body, especially across a broad population, there are many complicated implications that are difficult to predict. Given the terrible track record of experts in this area, it would be prudent to be humble about what we think we know.
Thirdly, the idea that food falls into two binary categories of “healthy” or “unhealthy” fundamentally misunderstands what “healthy eating” is about. Modern science tells us that healthy eating is about finding the right balance for each individual. While plentiful water is normally important for people to stay healthy, this is only true in the right quantities: some people have died from water poisoning, caused by drinking truly obscene quantities. If even water can be healthy (or unhealthy) depending upon the volume consumed, similar principles apply to food, where finding the right balance is even more important and sensitive. We should be especially mindful during Diabetes Awareness Month that different bodies respond to different foods in different ways. Your poison might be another person’s life saver.
The idea, then, that some food is categorically “healthy” and other food is categorically “unhealthy” might make for convenient short-hand chat in conversation, but it isn’t deeply true: a diet (as a whole) can be healthy or unhealthy only when considering the individual’s metabolism, exercise and lifestyle.
Finally, the Isle of Man’s sugar tax on drinks has not even come into effect yet. Introducing even more regressive new taxes which will fall hardest on the poorest members of our community are premature until we see the impact of the sugar tax on obesity.
If the sugar tax on drinks is effective in reducing Manx obesity, then there will be little reason to make food more expensive with new taxes. Since the VAT is not imposed on fresh foods, we already have a tax system that favours some foods – if that tax of 22% is not enough, then the new tax proposed by the nanny state advocates must be huge. Huge changes deserve scrutiny before they drive up the cost of living even further on our island.
The people who serve in elected positions should remember that they are custodians of our community: they should serve as our representatives, not as our rulers. Manx families should not need to fear new food taxes as we head into the festive season.