In the March 2016 budget the UK government announced the Sugar Tax which comes into force in 2018. Health campaigners were celebrating as it is no doubt a step in the right direction. However it won’t do much long term.
Let me introduce myself. My name is James Bond- I am Martin Milner’s personal trainer.
Do you know what the number one cause of obesity is? Its not eating too much or exercising too little. Its poverty.
Generally speaking food that is low in nutrition, high in fat is mass produced and cheap. Food that is low in fat and high in nutrition is hand produced, fresh and more expensive. Its unaffordable. Generally speaking those who are cash poor are time poor. They don’t have the time to cook fresh. With the greatest of respect those on lower incomes frequently are poorly educated on nutrition and don’t know what is good for them and what is bad for them.
On top of that people of lower incomes may not have sufficient money to have 5 small meals per day, all too often I find that they can only afford to eat one or two meals per day. When that happens your body goes into starvation mode thinking nutrition isn’t coming regularly and will store everything as fat.
Thus its easy to see why obesity is a disease of poverty.
Those of lower incomes cannot afford gym memberships or expensive personal trainers.
However its easy to see why we only spend £638 a year on anti-obesity measures.
Some of you may remember Superman III, in that movie one man said that whenever there is a problem someone gets rich.
So who gets rich from obesity? Is it the supermarkets; is it the fast food industry? No! It’s the taxman.
Your doctor doesn’t want you to smoke or drink or be overweight.
The taxman wants you to eat like a horse, drink like a fish and smoke like a chimney.
You’ll say smoking costs the NHS £5 billion a year (1) and that the taxman gets £9.5billion a year in duty. (2). Alcohol related harm overall costs the NHS in England £3.5 billion a year (3) and (4). In 2010 it was reported that alcohol contributes £14.6bn to the taxman (5).
Health problems associated with being overweight or obese cost the NHS more than £5 billion every year (6).
In real terms, taking into account minimum wage rises alcohol, unhealthy food and cigarettes are cheaper than ever. The time taken to earn the price of an alcoholic drink has never been so low. It’s simple maths.
Now if you smoke, drink and are obese you’ll die sooner, over your lifetime the taxman gets your taxes. The taxman saves your pension of £5881.20 a year if you die early. That doesn’t include other costs e.g. medical treatment. 70% of people don’t have a will (8). The taxman gets your estate as well when you die so it’s more for him
10 million people in the UK are over 65. The latest projections are for 5½ million more elderly people by 2034. The number will have nearly doubled to around 19 million by 2050. In 2010/11 pensions cost £100 billion (9). Assuming the 19million are on £113.10 per week its £111742800000 per year in pensions the taxman can save if they die early. Don’t forget there are fewer people paying in now as the birth rate is falling!
So what should we do? If I had my way, cigarette and alcohol duty should rise markedly yearly. We should introduce a sugar tax. We should do much more to combat obesity and be financially more prudent on all levels.
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Personal trainer and specialist in obesity
1 Callum C, Boyle S, Sandford A. Estimating the cost of smoking to the NHS in England and the impact of declining prevalence. Health Economics Policy & Law, 2010.
2 The Economics of Tobacco Action on Smoking and Health http://ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_121.pdf
3 Alcohol treatment in England 2012-13 http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/alcohol2012-13.pdf
4 Statistics on Alcohol: England, 2013 http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB10932/alc-eng-2013-rep.pdf
5 Alcohol consumption ‘continues to fall’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11170814
6 Reducing obesity and improving diet (https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reducing-obesity-and-improving-diet)
7 The basic state pension https://www.gov.uk/state-pension/overview
8 Die intestate and your loved ones will be left to untangle your legacy http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/pensions/article-2180242/Die-intestate-loved-ones-left-untangle-legacy.html