I've been asked by BBC Newcastle's morning show for some comments and an interview (Monday mid-morning) on the subject of Panorama's "Fat Tax" documentary. Although I only have the website to go on so far (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00w4dsy), there's some things I'd like to say in response, and here they are:
"Would putting up the price of junk food, high in sugar and fat, cut obesity rates in the same way as a tax on cigarettes has helped reduce smoking?"
This represents the over-riding popular view that all fat people are fat because they eat nothing but junk. This just isn't the case. The causes of obesity are far more complicated than the calories in vs. Calories out model - weight gain can be caused by medication side-effects, medical problems such as diabetes and PCOS, sedentary lifestyles (office working etc), stress and depression to name but a few. Increasing taxation on food, therefore will not eradicate obesity. Comparing tax on cigarettes to reduce smoking to a tax on food to reduce obesity doesn't work.
This approach also implies that any health problems caused by poor diet affect only fat people, which is simply not the case. By labelling a tax on percieved 'unhealthy' foods a "fax tax" it's unnecessary adding to the stigma of being fat - and stigma itself contibutes to stress and depression.
The fear-mongering of the media as to how much obesity-related diseases is causing harm in itself. We find ourselves in a society where fat people are increasingly viewed as of less value to thin or normal people and where health is determined not by medical tests but by BMI by which measure professional athletes are often classified as obese. Fat people need advice on how to improve their health that rests on more than "lay off the burgers, fatty" - we can reduce our risk of diabetes and heart disease without weight-loss and should be encouraged to try these rather than starvation diets or invasive surgery.
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