Beyond the headlines
Scotland prides itself in having taken a radical approach to public health in the past.
We were the first in the UK to introduce the ban on smoking in enclosed public places and now again the Scottish Government’s proposals for introducing a minimum price for alcohol seems to have sparked a trend – with pricing measures now being considered in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
When it comes to tackling alcohol and tobacco successive Scottish administrations have shown themselves willing to be brave and take risks. So is it time for us to get similarly radical about obesity?
Earlier this month Denmark became the first country in the world to introduce a ‘fat tax’.
Staples such as butter, milk, cheese, meat, oil and processed food are now subject to the tax if they contain more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat, in the hope that it will encourage the population to limit their intake of fatty foods.
Prime Minister David Cameron agrees that drastic action is needed to tackle Britian’s own growing obesity levels, and has said the UK Government will consider introducing a similar tax.
“I think it is something that we should look at,” he told 5 News during the Conservative conference in Manchester. “The problem in the past when people have looked at using the tax system in this way is the impact it can have on people on low incomes.
“But frankly, do we have a problem with the growing level of obesity? Yes. Do we have a kind of warning in terms of – look at America, how bad things have got there – what happens if we don’t do anything? Yes, that should be a wake-up call.” And it seems there is support for the issue north of the border too.
Speaking at Holyrood magazine’s heart briefing in Edinburgh earlier this month, Labour’s shadow public health minister Dr Richard Simpson highlighted Denmark’s ‘fat tax’, and also the taxing of sugary drinks in France and the requirement for restaurants in New York to publish calorie values on their menus, as issues for consideration, and argued it is time for Scotland to take a stronger stance on obesity.
“We need to think about regulation and legislation where it is within our powers, and some of it may not be, to try and do more than simply nudge,” he said.
“Because I don’t think a nudge will be enough.”