The latest study published by medical professionals (based on a poll, that’s right, a poll) found 52% of respondents support a sugar tax on sweetened beverages “as long as the revenue from the tax was used to fight child obesity”
Unsurprisingly, the concern came from the growing problem of obesity in New Zealand, According to Ministry of Health, currently 31% of adults are obese and a further 11% of children are obese. The medical online journal Lancet also found that New Zealand is ranked third as the most obese in the world and the highest in Australasia. The Obesity epidemic is spreading far and wide, but what do the academics advocate? Instead of educating people and letting them understand personal responsibility, they want to simply regulate sources of food. So this article would be explaining the misconceptions about initiatives to combat obesity and why voluntary action is the only strategic that could work.
- Introducing tax to sugary drinks is like tobacco or alcohol tax, they worked!
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, the problem with this statement is based on false assumptions. Taxation don’t change behaviour, they raise more money from people with addiction. A research from PlOS One indicated that tobacco tax would only burden the low-income smokers by keeping them in poverty; Concordia University likewise has found the wealthy people are especially resistant to tax hikes. Similarly, analysis by Cato Institute found that alcohol tax does not prevent people from consuming alcohol as they do normally, rather, they would adjust their expense from other areas to maintain their drinking habits. What this really creates is a black market of food! Wall Street Journal published a detailed summary of reports on how smuggling of cigarette became prevalent in New York city after the changes in legislation.
- Unhealthy food is so cheap and healthy food is expensive!
Anyone with logic can realise water is far cheaper than sugary drinks. Thank goodness, the farming industry in New Zealand has long been deregulated since the 1984, this has led to the farmers increasing their efficiency in production to out compete global competitors. And when you compare the farming practices in the United States, you can see their agricultural sector is heavily subsidized to produce corn and potatoes rather than green vegetables, which leads to high calorie food being far cheaper than other healthier options. France also face the same problem of subsidized farming but obesity rate remains as the lowest in Europe. Regardless of whether someone has a lot of disposable income or not, they will always buy what appeals to them, there are more factors that need to be taken into account of before making rash assumptions such as the French attitude of shunning obesity or the Japanese cuisine.
The bottom line here is that no matter how many regulations they impose on us, people are always going to get their way (as mentioned before such as black market or adjusting budget). What we can really do to improve the health and help these people is to began initiatives that educate people about health risks associated with their behaviours. This can be done through curriculum in schools to teach children about healthy eating, encouragement of exercise and sports, develop skills to calculate calorie consumptions, etc. We need to get to the root of the problem instead of avoiding the problem by filling the law makers with more money in their pockets and keeping the poor poorer.