Why I’m against soft drinks sugar taxes

soft_drinks

Soft drinks are an easy target for finance ministers and celebrity chefs, both looking to further their own ends

It’s been a while since my last post for which I can only apologize. Contrary to any rumors out there I haven’t fallen off the LCHF wagon. On the contrary, this year marks both my fourth year of LCHF and my 50th on this planet! All bio-markers remain excellent and, to be perfectly frank, I’ve never felt better!!

I’ve been chatting with my doctor friend and I’m almost ready for my next set of bloods/ lipid profile. I’ve requested that we also check my inflammation (CRP) marker values for the first time, just to find out what my baseline value is. Watch this space for more..

If you are going to tax soft drinks, you should be taxing ALL simple carbs as well

The UK recently joined some other countries in imposing a “sugar tax” on soft drinks. As a strict LCHF practitioner you might think that I approve of this as a small but significant victory in the good fight against sugar. Well, I don’t. In fact, I think that in the long term this might do more harm than good by simply encouraging people to move from one “sugar hit” to another i.e. from drinks to sweets.

Quite rightly in my view the soft drinks industry is fighting back, claiming that this is an unjust and discriminatory tax on one particular segment of the food industry. Why should they pay an extra tax when the sweet/ candy industry does not? If your yardstick is the perceived “damage” that soft drinks cause to children, then you need to be consistent and include ALL other simple carbs as well i.e. pure sugar, ALL fruits and fruit juices, ALL sweets, candies, chips & crisps, and ice creams, etc., as an absolute bare minimum. But why stop there some would argue? A french bread baton stick, consisting of mainly complex carbs, has a glycemic index of 90 (sugar being 100) so why not tax that as well?

Taxing soft drinks only is like taxing just one brand of cigarettes

When it comes to taxing and health we already have a strong precedent with the tobacco industry. Back in the eighties, as indisputable evidence emerged about the damaging effects of smoking, western governments started to levy taxes on ALL tobacco-related products in an attempt to a) dissuade people from smoking and to b) cover the rapidly increasing costs of treating smoking related diseases such as lung cancer. This was accompanied by a concerted education campaign in schools and elsewhere to inform people about the damaging effects of smoking. Over the last few years, some governments have gone even further by placing large written health warnings, including some stark images on cigarette packaging. With over thirty years of hindsight, no one now disputes the effectiveness of this campaign; smoking and smoking related diseases in general are both well down in western societies. The key difference between taxes on tobacco and taxes on soft drinks however is that the tobacco tax applies to ALL tobacco brands, whereas the sugar tax targets one particular segment of the “high sugar content” industry. Soft drinks taxes are the equivalent of taxing one cigarette brand over another or, to put it another way, cigarette taxes aren’t discriminatory, soft drinks taxes are.

The Solution: tax ALL foods based on carbohydrate content

The solution is incredibly simple. Firstly, all foodstuffs already carry detailed carb content labeling by law, even in some cases going so far as to state the amounts of complex and simple carbs (sugars & non-sugars). Hence, all we have to do is read the labels and tax the foods on a sliding scale according carb content i.e. the higher the carb content, the higher the tax. Based on my own experience I would say that 25-30/100g of carbs/ product would be a good tax threshold for solid foodstuffs i.e. below this you levy no tax, above this you levy tax on a sliding scale according to the amount by which this level is exceeded. For liquids, I would say a good start would be somewhere in the region of 5-10g carbs/100ml of product, possibly less simply due to the large volumes consumed.

Secondly, start to introduce tobacco style warnings on all packaging for “high-carb” food products, as defined above: “WARNING: CONSUMING LARGE AMOUNTS OF CARBOHYDRATES MAY LEAD TO THE FOLLOWING DISEASES: CVD, STROKE, HEART ATTACK, OBESITY, DIABETES, CANCER, ETC, ETC”

Finally, EDUCATE! Start by teaching our children the physiological effects of carbohydrates on the human body; lipogenesis, inflammation, the effects of insulin on the body, etc, etc. Ensure that they understand that NO CARBOHYDRATE is essential to human existence i.e. we can easily live without them and our quality of life is that much better as a result.

 

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