Leaders: More tax, less sweet talk to end obesity epidemic

WE ALREADY demonise fat, now we must ensure we treat sugar as its twin evil– and, complicated as it may be, we should tax the stuff

WE ALREADY demonise fat, now we must ensure we treat sugar as its twin evil– and, complicated as it may be, we should tax the stuff

Obesity is the biggest health risk we face. We can’t stop cancer and dementia, but obesity is a condition of our own making.

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Efforts have been made to educate people about the dangers of obesity, in an attempt to change habits, but this has not halted the worrying trend of those who are seriously overweight.

Official figures show 65 per cent of adults and more than 30 per cent of children in Scotland are now classified as either overweight or obese. There was an almost 10 per cent rise in the proportion of people aged 16 to 64 who were overweight or obese in Scotland between 1995 and 2012.

So despite on-going pledges from politicians and health workers, Scotland is a nation that is piling on the pounds. This is despite measures to promote healthy eating and exercise in schools and workplaces.

We’ve now seen a more direct measure, in the sugar tax. Will it be enough? No. Excess consumption of sugar is not confined to soft drinks. Take a look at how much chocolate will be consumed this weekend. We brush that off, because it is a tradition. But by doing so, we make excess sugar intake acceptable.

Because of the extent of the health threat, we have to now consider further measures to control consumption. Regulating the amount of sugar in foods has to be part of that.

There is always regret over prescriptive measures, but this is for our own good. And it can be done. Attitudes can change.

Ten years ago today Scotland introduced legislation for smoke-free enclosed public spaces. This has been a success, and people would quickly object to any abuse of the legislation now. It’s become our way of life. The same can happen with measures to prevent obesity.

It’s all about a change in attitude. Education hasn’t achieved that, but regulation can. We can’t give up on education, but additional measures are required now.

That is why it seems wrong for funding to be withdrawn for a bus which toured the country teaching people about the best things to eat to stay or get themselves healthy.

The cost of running this bus when compared to the enormous costs of treating obesity-related health illnesses is a drop in the ocean. It is a sad fact that many youngsters cannot correctly name common fruit and vegetables when presented with them. Healthy eating begins at home, but that is not enough for those who do not see vegetables at home.

We have become a society obsessed with eating less fat – we need to start looking at sugar as its evil twin. And to start looking how to reduce sugar levels hidden in processed foods that, unlike sweets and soft drinks, are not even taxed through VAT.

Several countries that have looked at wider sugar taxes have rejected them and settled for going for sugary drinks alone, because the administrative burden of policing sugary foods looks costly and complex. But with obesity on the rise and existing measures proving powerless to stop it, we are left with little choice.

Just how low can Trump go?

Just when you thought the race to the White House couldn’t get any worse, Donald Trump delivers once again. His feud with Ted Cruz over “my wife is better looking than your wife” is a new low, and if we didn’t know better, we would think that Trump was trying to talk his way out of the running.

How sad that this insulting exchange comes so soon after all the positive energy of International Women’s Day. This kind of gutter politics demeans women and, had it happened here, it would be the end of a UK politician’s career. Sadly, it will be business as usual in the United States.

There has also been a suggestion that a recent reference to “spilling the beans” on Cruz’s wife was in connection with a battle she had with depression. If that’s true, it is an unforgivable and shameful personal attack. Meanwhile on social media, the comment has been interpreted as evidence of Cruz having “cheated on his wife” – which he denies.

We can only hope that if Trump does win the Republican nomination, this episode will cost him dearly if he goes head to head with Hillary Clinton. But with his track record of insults directed at women so far in this campaign, you wouldn’t bet on it.

Trump appears to have no regard for the consequences of his remarks, whether they are aimed at women or enemies of the state.

Each time one of these controversies happens, it should dig him deeper into a hole that it should not be possible to climb out of. But polls show he remains on track to run for the presidency. If we ever bemoan the standard of political debate in the UK, there is at least the consolation that we can still recognise where a line has been crossed.