Lecturing at the Royal Society of Medicine, the director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Sir Nicholas Wald, proposed in April that the UK tax four ingredients that contribute to obesity and hypertension: salt, saturated fat, alcohol, and sugar. The tax wouldn't apply to these ingredients in their pure form, so presumably a canister of salt wouldn't cost £100. How merciful.
The ever more popular "sin tax" allows the State to pilfer from people who have been made to feel too ashamed of themselves to complain. When George Osborne brought the price of cigarettes to between £6 and £7 for 20, with up to 88 per cent going to the Treasury, where were the columns railing at the injustice? Smokers are evil — even smokers think so — and have learned to keep their heads down.
Yet even if you believe in governmental social engineering, the sin tax is a crude tool, and a tax on unhealthy ingredients would be no exception. The UK's skyhigh alcohol duty penalises moderate drinkers as well as yobs vomiting on the street. In kind, thin folks would get reamed by a "fat tax" right along with the porkers.
Though Wald's proposal is aimed at takeaway and ready meals, think of the host of foods whose price would rise astronomically if taxed by the gram of salt: soy sauce, anchovies, frozen peas, dried shrimp, salt cod, smoked salmon, capers, olives, tinned soup, and bread. Sugar duties would hit ketchup, chutney, many chilli sauces, and all jams and preserves. A saturated fat tax could jack up the price of full-fat milk, Greek yogurt, cream, cheeses, coconut, macadamia nuts, cashews, most red meat, and many salad dressings and prepared sauces. As for alcohol, let's raise some of the highest duties in Europe, just boosted further in Osborne's last budget, again.
Fat taxes fall disproportionately on the poor. And excuse me, but didn't I read something recently about the cost of food in the UK already going through the roof?
Meanwhile over in New York, the food fascists are having a field day. A Democratic assemblyman, Felix Ortiz, has put forward a bill to tax sweets and snacks (including granola bars and brown rice cakes). It would ban all New York restaurants from using ANY SALT WHATSOEVER (mmm, yum). It would tax sources of entertainment associated with a sedentary lifestyle: sales and rentals of video games, movies and game controllers, just as Ortiz also proposed taxing television commercials to discourage obesity in 2003. (An odd impulse. It's during the commercials that we get up.) No exemption for people who do sit-ups in front of movies and TV programmes, thank you.