The UK government may soon impose a hefty soft drink tax and restrict timings of advertisement about junk food. The Members of Parliament (MP) reason these are ideal techniques to tackle the increasing cases of childhood obesity.
The United Kingdom’s government is under increasing pressure to stop opposing a tax on carbonated, sugary drinks. The petition, started by Jamie Oliver and Sustain and spearheaded by Helen Jones MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, culminated in a strongly-worded report from MPs, which says it is high time the country takes some definitive stand to restrict the easy access to sugary drinks and minimize exposure of children to ads about junk food if the country is serious about addressing childhood obesity, an increasing epidemic in the UK, reported Parliament.
The report reads, “The Government must not take the easy option of relying on health education campaigns and promoting exercise, to solve the UK’s obesity crisis.”
The report urges the government to impose a soft drink tax to the tune of 20 percent. Additionally, ads that promote junk food shouldn’t be allowed to be aired before 9 p.m., suggests the report. The MPs feel the tax and restrictions are an essential part of any national strategy to tackle child obesity, reported Business Insider.
Apart from the aforementioned steps, the report also stressed something “far more ambitious” was needed. If the committee had its way, there could be graphic warnings, similar to those found on cigarette packs, on the side of fizzy drinks saying how many spoonfuls of sugar a single serving contains. Such graphic warning signs are slapped on potentially harmful products in the hope that consumers will be dissuaded. However, experience has shown that such techniques do not have the expected impact on the regular consumer.
The report also suggested penalizing supermarkets for making soft drinks a very appealing buy during visits by average consumers. Offers such as “Buy One Get One Free” and psychologically manipulative product placement practices should be banned. In simpler words, supermarkets often lure customers into buying unhealthy and often unneeded products by placing them at the ends of aisles and checkouts. Buyers unwittingly end up purchasing such products in large quantities even if they do not need them and, as a result, consumption rises.
New guidelines that advise what constitutes a healthy school packed lunch should be formulated and teachers given the authority to educate the parents who continue to send their kids with unhealthy foods, added the report. Additionally, the report went on to say children’s favorite cartoon characters or actors shouldn’t be roped into advertisements. The MPs are clear that though the fast food and soft drinks industries are welcome to voluntarily make changes, they are to be warned that circumventing the rules will invite enforced regulation and penalties.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has consistently shot down the idea of a soft drink tax, sometimes referred to as sugar tax. However, the cross-party health select committee, chaired by the Tory MP Dr. Sarah Wollaston, has strongly backed the proposed techniques meant to eventually make the availability of soft drinks and junk food a lot harder for kids. If the unhealthy foods are beyond reach for the kids, they will be forced to consume healthier alternatives, reason the MPs.
Statistics indicate about 25 percent of the students leaving primary school and classified as “disadvantaged” are actually obese. Sugar-sweetened drinks currently account for 29 percent of sugar intake among children aged 11 to 18 and around 16 percent for younger children, reported the Daily Mail. Addressing obesity related issues in children is currently costing in excess of $7 billion every year.
Recommendations like the soft drink tax, as well as other restrictions, are being increasingly supported by UK’s citizens and may soon become a law. Do such methods work in controlling childhood obesity?
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