There is no silver bullet for the complex issue of obesity. Yet some policymakers continue to erroneously believe you can tax people to better health. Jim Goetz, president of the International Council of Beverages Association (ICBA), calls the most recent example of this misguided thinking – a sugar tax proposal in the United Kingdom – disappointing.
In an interview, Goetz told BeverageDaily, “Beverage is the only category in the food and drink sector in the UK that has consistently reduced sugar intake.”
Goetz also points out that, “Singling out one grocery item that - using the UK example - represents only 6% of total calories in the average diet, will not reduce obesity rates. It will only take the focus away from real solutions that help people balance calories from all sources.”
While beverage taxes have no positive impact on public health, they do have a negative impact on people’s pocket books. Taxes raise prices on common grocery items, put jobs at risk and divert us from real solutions to health challenges like obesity. As seen in the case of Mexico’s one-peso per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, the tax disproportionately hits the poorest in the country but has done essentially nothing to reduce obesity.
Instead of pushing discriminatory taxes on common grocery items, “the way to tackle obesity is to have industry and government working together to provide consumers with the information and education they can use to balance their calories,” said Goetz.
With education and information, people can make decisions about their own diets and how to achieve balance in their day-to-day lives. That is how we can make a real and lasting impact on obesity.