Some give and take required if we are to advance the great sugar tax debate

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GIVEN the looming obesity epidemic, it seems desirable to increase the cost of products high in sugar and at the same time reduce the cost of products which are an essential part of a healthy diet (your report, 19 February).

All of the discussion seems to be focused on levying a 20 per cent charge on sugary drinks but there is no mention of reducing the cost of more healthy products at the same time. The VAT system is the obvious solution.

If VAT were charged at 20 per cent on sugary drinks a negative rate of 20 per cent VAT could be applied to healthy food, constituting a healthy food rebate.

For example, say it costs £1.00 to buy a two-litre bottle of cola and it also costs £1.00 to purchase a pack of six apples. The bottle of cola contains 824 calories and 224 grams of sugar while the packet of six apples contains 318 calories and 66 grams of sugar plus other beneficial properties.

If VAT were applied to the cola, the cost would rise from £1.00 to £1.20.

If negative VAT were applied to the apples, the cost would fall from £1.00 to 80p, everything being equal.

So instead of both products having the same cost, there would be a difference of 40p and the bottle of cola would cost 50 per cent more than the pack of six apples. This could make a substantial impact on purchasing behaviour.

Surely it is time for our politicians to get off the fence and actually do something that will discourage the consumption of sugar and promote healthy eating whilst not increasing the overall cost of a family’s food bill.

A Healthy Food Rebate could be the solution.

Derek J Gray

Easter Belmont Road, Edinburgh

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