Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has called the rising rates of obesity a “national emergency” and has requested the government’s forthcoming childhood obesity strategy to be “gamechanging”.
Hunt, speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, answered questions about the introduction of a sugar tax in the UK. Last October, Prime Minister David Cameron opposed a sugar tax, claiming there were “more effective ways of tackling obesity”, which is a primary cause of type 2 diabetes.
Hunt said: “We have got to do something about this. I’ve got a one-year-old daughter, and by the time she reaches adulthood a third of the population will be clinically obese. One in 10 will have type 2 diabetes. It is a national emergency.
“Obesity costs more, globally, than all conflict on the planet. It is a war, it’s just that it doesn’t have a shoot-out.”
The government is due to publish its childhood obesity strategy in early 2016 and Hunt acknowledged that a sugar tax is still being considered by Downing Street. Public Health England is among the many organisations, including Action on Sugar, which has called for the introduction of a sugar tax. In July, the British Medical Association urged the government to introduce a 20 per cent tax on sugar.
“I don’t mind not getting a tax if there is something better and more symbolic because what we need is a change,” said Hunt. “It has to be a game-changing moment, a robust strategy. The issue here is to do what it takes to make sure that children consume less sugar, because we have got this terrible problem – we are the most obese nation in the EU and it is getting worse.
“David Cameron has said if it isn’t a sugar tax, it needs to be something equally robust, but he hasn’t taken a sugar tax off the table. We have got parents up and down the country who want to know that they are going to be given the support they need to make sure their children eat healthily.”
While the introduction of a sugar tax appears to be a consideration for the government, there is opposition to this measure from people who believe the tax would mainly hurt the poor.
In 2015, Elini Courea of The Spectator argued that “indirect taxes – including vehicle excise duty, air passenger duty, ‘green taxes’ and duty on tobacco, alcohol and petrol – make the poor poorer. A sugar tax will only add to this problem; yet another callous levy on the lifestyle of the poor.”
Furthermore, critics have argued a sugar tax could prove problematic for people with type 1 diabetes and insulin-treated type 2 diabetes who need to buy sugary products to treat hypoglycemia.

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