Health Science

Why We Need A Sugar Tax


I have a busy day ahead catching up on paperwork and writing reports.  To prepare I have stocked up on snacks, including a last minute dash to the Co-op for some bananas and ginger nut biscuits.  I noticed that by a coincidence both items came to exactly the same amount of money on my bill.

Interestingly I had bought them both for the exact same benefit – to keep me from getting hungry and therefore distracted while sitting at my desk working.  It made me wonder just how equivalent the two things are.  Both are excellent energy sources, both taste nice and both are convenient and easy to eat.

But there are some big differences as well.  Bananas are fattening and burn up a lot of fuel getting to me from the Caribbean.  So I don’t think I can describe them as being either healthy or environmentally friendly, though they are Fair Trade so I can feel good about buying them for that reason.

Biscuits are probably more fattening if only because they are more energy rich and you can eat a lot more of them before you realise it.  For the same reason they are quite likely to be a contributory factor to diabetes.  They are certainly bad for your teeth.  And the raw materials have probably made a comparable journey to me as the bananas.  And once here the production of biscuits involves a lot more fussing about, so they are probably making the roads of our small island more congested.  Quite apart from the fuel used, the packaging is made from unsustainable fossil carbon sources which will contribute to global warming when disposed of.

So all in all the biscuits are a bigger imposition on my life in particular and the environment in general.  Now I am not against biscuits per se.  They are one of life’s pleasures and it would be miserable to have to live without them.  But surely they shouldn’t be quite so cheap.  The price ought to represent the cost they are imposing on society as well as the supplier’s margin.  I’d say that a packet of biscuits ought to be at least twice and maybe three times the price of a bunch of bananas.  The most straight forward way to do this would be to introduce a sugar tax.  It would be unwelcome at first, but in the long run a biscuit would become more of a treat and some of us would be a bit slimmer.

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