Sugar tax – an initial skirmish

sugar taxThe sugar tax is the start of a long war on sugar, Alun Rees warns.

When our son was born 25 years ago, my wife Susan, a dental hygienist, and I were running a small practice on a large new suburban housing estate.

Our philosophy of practice was founded on the unsexy triad of paediatric dentistry, periodontology and prevention.

In those days of NHS registration we had more than 700 active patients who were under 16.

We trotted out the usual messages of diet, drinks and discipline, but with the arrival of a baby came the warnings, ‘just you wait’ they said, ‘you’ll never stop him wanting sweets’.

We waited and we practised what we preached, my wife was a zealot.

Saturday was ‘treat day’ – a gingerbread man, party bags were removed as he arrived home and we stopped our habits of grabbing a chocolate bar when we filled the car with petrol.

A quarter of a century later and the son doesn’t like sweet foods and actively dislikes Coke.

The big sugar battle

When Susan was examining closely the ‘normal’ food, starting with yoghurts on supermarket shelves, little did we understand the ubiquity of sugar.

We realised that healthy, low-fat food was anything but; stuffed as it was with sugar for ‘taste’.

We had not appreciated the addictive nature of sugar, rivalling tobacco, nor the implications for general health.

I was sceptical at first about the fizzy drinks tax and still have concerns about the direction the campaigns will take.

This is an initial skirmish in what will be a long war.

The opponents are the sugar and food industry allied with advertising; a business whose existence depends upon persuading us to spend money we don’t have on things that we don’t need.

As we have seen during political campaigns, advertising is increasingly sophisticated in those it targets.

Our addictions to our screens and sugar will prove to be a difficult foe.

Read more from Alun Rees:

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