Do we need a sugar tax for Xmas?

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So with the spirit of Nigella in mind, I want you to consider an important question: does New Zealand need a to protect us from Christmas excesses?

Sugar taxes have, after all, been the flavour of the year it seems. The UK’s decision to get on board the bandwagon gave long-suffering advocates in New Zealand some renewed energy. Christmas also epitomises a range of excesses that can cruelly result in our waistlines expanding just as we reach togs season. But despite the growing chorus of voices in favour of a sugar tax, the evidence that such a tax will work is murky – and the justification for whether it is even needed is murkier.

If Nigella is Christmas personified, is Jamie Oliver the Grinch? Some of you might know celebrity chef Jamie Oliver from his show The Naked Chef (a gross exaggeration: the only skin showing skin was the roast chicken) and Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals (don’t even try, unless you have at least triple the time). Jamie Oliver was also one of the UK’s – and possibly the Western world’s – most vocal advocates in favour of a sugar tax. By the way, it is telling that soon after a sugar tax was introduced in the UK, Jamie Oliver was quick to point out that this was only the first step in a range of initiatives to reduce obesity.

Only later do they say it is only a first step. Not even a step so much as a very very very small shuffle. A sugar tax that reduced soda drink consumption by 10% would see the average NZer consume three fewer calories a day.

This is equivalent to walking an extra 45 seconds a day. Yes seconds not minutes.

Yes, sugar isn’t all that good for you. But if you look at the breakdown of calories, it is not just the sugary foods that are doing people harm. The turkey wrapped in bacon and sage butter, the crispy camembert parcels and meat stuffing have more calories than most of the dessert foods. Clocking in at 965 calories, perhaps there should be a separate toad-in-a-hole tax. For those who want to avoid the excesses of Christmas, it is not just sugar you should be dodging, but fat, salt and alcohol too.

Calories come in many forms.

The same argument applies for those concerned about children suffering dental issues because of sugar and soda consumption. While it is deplorable that children are requiring serious and completely avoidable dental procedures, will a sugar tax really help change parents’ behaviour? Will an increase in price of sugary products really be more compelling for parents than the wellbeing of their own children? If it has come down to that, there are surely more serious issues going on.

If a parent allows their kids to rot their teeth, a 10% price increase for Coke will not be the answer.

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