Editorial: Fat tax on foods would offer hope

2 comments


Every night on TV, Harvey Norman screams at me to GO and I haven't gone yet.

Briscoes tells me I'll never buy better, but I have. Fall down Kat doesn't stop me cracking a sav. The nightly braying Richard Till hasn't got me shopping smarter.

My favourite telly advert is the two boys who talk on laptops from opposite ends of the world. Telecom's punchline is From Here We Can Do Anything. For me that means sticking with my beloved Vodafone.

I can't survive without my morning flat white. I pass 20 cafes on my way to work. I only buy one coffee.

We make our own choices.

Does anyone really need the Government to tell them that a double-decker burger slathered in mayonnaise, fried onions, accompanied by greasy fries and washed down with a litre of Coke may not be great for your girth?

Obesity and nutrition "experts" say we do. Apparently fat people's brains are thicker than their waistlines. Today, Ellen Irvine reports how the arrival of American burger chain Carl's Jnr in Tauranga is opposed by local nutritionists who claim there are already too many fast-food outlets in the area. Local nutritionist Anna Rolleston criticises "these American takeaway joints ruining the health of our people".<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Carl's Jnr is not solely responsible for people's health. A business is motivated by profit and return to shareholders. It has calculated there is money to be made from selling burgers in this hood.

The fast-food industry has become the scapegoat for our obesity problem. Certainly New Zealand is in the grip of an obesity crisis. We are the second most obese nation in the world. An alarming 65 per cent of us are obese or overweight. Costs of this are crippling the health system.

Unlike smokers and drinkers, fat people don't pay a supersize tax for their bingeing. They do not contribute extra to the cost of their strokes and heart attacks.

Yet like smokers and drinkers, the obese position themselves as victims. Anyone is to blame but themselves. TV, the food industry, the media and the Government forced them to hoover that bucket of fried chicken. Not to mention their under-active thyroid.

No denying that weight is fraught with many complex and difficult issues, particularly for women. The nation's obesity is not easy to solve because there are so many causes, not just individual psychology but lifestyle factors. I have sympathy for everyone - including myself - who has struggled to lose weight. But let us not deny the element of personal choice and willpower in our diets. Yes, there is more temptation if there are fast-food joints, but no one is putting a gun to anyone's head to enter. Just like no one can force you to jog around the block if you don't want to.

The Government does need to curb the problem but the answer is not in banning burger bars.

Where the Government can make a difference is in childhood obesity. Not only is this where the problem starts but, unlike adults, young children often are not to blame. Either they are not educated about the issues or their selfish parents can't be bothered to feed them correctly.

A good move would be to legislate the food industry to provide simple traffic light labelling about food that everyone understands. In the US, fast-food corporations are legally required to list the calorie content of meals. There should be compulsory nutrition, cooking, health and fitness studies in schools.

These moves alone won't stop us making poor choices. More radically, the Government could consider a fat tax. This is not a levy on those who wear elastic-waisted pants, but a tax on food which contains certain fats and sugars. This has been introduced in Denmark, which has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world. This move could be coupled with the removal of GST on healthier foods like fruit and vegetables.

It took high smoking taxes and tough legislation to significantly slow the smoking addiction.

When healthy food is less expensive, and gorging on bad fats and sugar makes our pockets lighter, this will lead to us being lighter on the scales.

Just do it.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 17 Sep 2014 17:38:03 Processing Time: 631ms