Nick Cater takes down the ‘sucrophobes’ in his column ($) in The Australian today:
The first thing that should trouble us about the sucrophobes is the simplicity of their proposal. The social, psychological and physical causes of obesity are complex. Unwanted kilos of body mass do not succumb to miracle cures, raising the price of sugar included.
Equally revealing is the fact its advocates seldom talk about revenue. It suggests their proposal is not principally about collecting money but has a far more lofty purpose.
Rest assured, the Obesity Policy Coalition tells us in its submission to the government’s tax review, a sugar-sweetened beverage tax would raise “considerable revenue” while increasing demand for water and low-fat milk. Yet neither proposition is backed by evidence; we are expected to take them on trust.
Fat tax proposals, like so many public policy blunders, are driven by the imperative to do something in the face of an imagined crisis. We have been struck by an “obesity pandemic”, we are told. Health costs are not just rising, they are “spiralling out of control”.
The sucrophobes back their arguments with scareynomics — the use of terrifyingly big numbers in an attempt to persuade us that their absurd proposal makes perfect economic sense.
If we are to believe a recent report from Obesity Australia, for example, obesity costs Australia $58 billion, a figure equivalent to 40 per cent of the health budget.