I have no intention of discussing politics, political parties or anything of that sort but do wish to ere my views on the “sugar tax”. Announced in the budget yesterday, a levy will be paid by soft drinks manufacturers on sugary drinks. To give the manufacturers time to adjust their recipes this tax will not come into force until 2018. The reasoning behind this tax is to reduce obesity in children and follows a long campaign by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who has been campaigning for a while now for the government to take steps and address this problem. Will it work? Not in my opinion and here’s why. To my knowledge the levels of sugar in drinks and sweets hasn’t really risen over the years but attitudes have changed. To have healthier children we need to change attitudes. The attitudes of children and adults must both change. When I was at school you didn’t see as many fat children as you do today. Yes that’s right I said fat, let us not beat around the bush using nice terms like obese. They mean the same but somehow obese sounds nicer, more medical maybe but it means the same. If you can live with being obese but not fat, wake up. You may see people who are obese as unfortunate while people who are fat are greedy, guess what, they’re the same thing so either can apply to both. If it’s the only way to get people to listen and take heed stop being polite. We need to look at how our society has changed and work out what to do about it. So what’s the difference between then and now? In the 1970’s nobody had a games console, they didn’t exist, and so after school we went outside and played, a lot, all year round. In school we had Physical Education (PE). My primary school didn’t have playing fields or a swimming pool so each class had a time in the week where they would be bussed to a swimming pool or playing fields to do sport for a morning or afternoon. Ball games and other running games where allowed in school playgrounds and guess what, nobody got killed, I don’t even remember anybody really getting hurt. I never got homework while at primary school but my children did and I expect primary schools children still do today. My children came home, did their homework then played out. While they had a games console, time playing it was limited by myself and their mother. Now days it seems as though most of the schools have sold their playing fields to housing developers and PE is no longer important. Games consoles are more popular than ever, not to mention the internet. The result is our children live much more sedentary life styles than any generation before them and that’s why we have more fat children than ever before. No the sugar tax is not going to solve this problem, we need to get our children moving, but how? Also announced in the budget that the school day will be extended by one hour (not worked out how that’s the Chancellors call) so how to use it? Doing homework? Do that and achieve nothing but increase the teaching costs. Extra hour of lessons? More time sitting down, our children don’t need more time sitting down. Why don’t we use that extra one hour a day doing sport. St Ninians primary school in Stirling introduced a “daily mile” three and a half years ago where every pupil runs or walks for one mile every day with great success. The children’s behaviour has improved with teachers reporting the children settle into lessons quicker and the children at this school don’t have the obesity problems seen elsewhere. Also with this extra time allotted to sport there would be no need for the current time spent doing PE, as little as one hour a week in some schools, so what to use that time for? Maths or English, no lets teach nutrition. Yes that’s right what better subject could you teach in that time other than nutrition and health. Teach our children good habits while they’re young and hopefully stop the problem from resurfacing for future generations as they’ll pass their good habits to their children.
So what will the sugar tax do? It may force drinks manufacturers to revisit their recipes and cut the sugar content but it’s more likely to just put up prices. Will that cut down the amount bought? Heavy taxation on cigarettes hasn’t worked, increasing taxation on alcohol hasn’t worked and heavy taxation on petrol and diesel hasn’t stopped people driving when they could walk or get the bus. So why should the sugar tax cut down on the amount of sugary drinks consumed? And as it only applies to drinks and not sweets, biscuits, cakes and other food types would it make a difference if it did? All food types are an energy source for the body: fat is stored energy. The only way to lose fat is to burn more energy than you take in. In other words eat less, move more.
I applaud Jamie Oliver for his relentless campaigning and normally don’t think much of celebrities who tell us how we should live, usually because these multi-millionaires like to tell us to give are money to a charity they believe in but keep hold of their own cash. But Jamie Oliver has been consistent in his message. His message makes sense. We need to get our children moving and feed them healthier. I just don’t think the government are listening.