Talk of a sugar tax comes back from the grave

Talk of a sugar tax has been making its rounds in households and television studios alike, with more pressure from researchers asking the government to impose a tax on sugary drinks. But a simple use of logic is all that is needed to drive this topic back down the gutter from where it came from.

Left-wing political groups, especially the Greens, have made clear their support for a tax on sugar in order to combat obesity and health problems present in the Western world today. But the answer doesn’t lie in taxing people, the answer lies in feeding a sense of discipline and personal responsibility to the populace.

Let’s suppose a sugar tax is imposed on the people. What then? What will happen when people start switching to harmful chemicals like artificial sweeteners? How will the Greens, who are apparently so adamant on tackling health problems, respond to this? Or how about when, since sugary drinks will be more expensive, people increase their consumption of alcohol instead? A sugar tax will only result in people switching to substitutes, as numerous studies have discovered.

It is clear that the so-called researchers who proposed a tax on sugar didn’t really think about the long-term impacts of this radical new policy. One might question whether those researchers are in fact committed to improving human health in the first place, since they are strong advocates of a policy that would only lead to even worse results.

But this is not my main argument. A sugar tax will not only lead to a further deterioration in health, it will end up hurting the poor. Fairfax has already mocked this argument by saying “…another way of saying it will hit the poor the hardest is that it will help them the most. Their health is being savaged by sugar, so if a sugar tax can lower consumption, it is to the greatest benefit of those very people.” Well Fairfax, it’s not that easy.

Those in the lower income stratums of society will continue to buy sugar no matter what, just like smoking addicts who continue to buy cigarettes despite a tax on smoking. Drug addicts continue to purchase drugs despite losing their fortunes, the same thing applies to sugar.

For example, Mexico’s sugar tax, while leading to a drop in sugar consumption, was “nothing compared to the drop in calories people needed to consume in order to not be obese”, according to a study by the UK Taxpayers’ Alliance. This only means families will have to pay more in tax bills in return for a mediocre reduction in sugar intake. A sugar tax won’t see a large reduction in sugar intake, and families will simply continue paying an extra amount (and conveniently give the government more funding).

Denmark already scrapped its sugar tax, along with its ‘fat tax’, the latter of which resulted in only 7% of Danes cutting down their fat intake. It also led to 1300 job losses as the Danish resorted to crossing the border to Germany or Sweden to fulfil their hedonistic desires. The Danes learned the hard way what a sugar tax would result in: job losses, greater inefficiencies, and no real impact on sugar intake.

But even this is not my main argument. The crux of my argument surrounds the concepts of personal responsibility and discipline. A government that shields its citizens from negative activities by controlling their actions will breed a weak populace that lacks personal responsibility. Humans should be given the opportunity to make their decisions and live with the consequences. Having learned from their mistakes, humans become stronger.

It is not right that lower income families must pay the price when the rest of the population lacks self-control and discipline. And it is not right to expose the population to greater health risks by diverting their desire for sugar to something worse. The people of the Western world are getting spoilt by their governments through nanny-state laws, which is contributing to an ever weaker and more degenerate society.

Education is a better solution, which should not only spread awareness about healthy living, but also promote the benefits of the traditional sugar-free lifestyle enjoyed by people centuries ago. Another practical solution is to promote sporting activities by making all associated expenses tax deductible, which was proposed by both Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch, who are vehemently anti-sugar tax. Both politicians agreed with the need to foster personal responsibility among the populace, as well as to avoid punishing those people who possess the constitution to lead a healthy and responsible lifestyle.

No, the solution is not to expose the population to more harmful unnatural substitutes and alcohol by using a tax that would most likely not have a noticeable impact in the first place. A sugar tax is regressive, as it won’t achieve its intended goal, would only lead to greater health risks, and end up making people poorer. The natural order dictates the need for people to suffer the consequences of their actions. This not only helps ensure people learn from experience, but intervening in this naturally-ratified law will only lead to even more problems for society.

 

  • Duhitar

    A lot of very good points, especially the one regarding alcohol and cigarette taxes. All that happens is people go without other stuff. When it becomes school books and children’s clothes and trips away, there is something wrong with the ‘solution.’
    The problem is not just sugar drinks, it’s all the sugar in processed foods and so-called ‘diet drinks’ – and you get to find out how you have abused your body when you are about 50 and you get diabetes. “But I don’t eat a lot of sugar!” you cry. Then your dietitian shows you how much you eat per day and you are shocked. By then it’s too late for a lot of people, but these people are an example and their experience ought to help others. Talking about it between social groups does far more than a tax, which is cynically received and does more harm than good.