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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > February 2016 > Should we have a sugar tax?

Should we have a sugar tax?

Ministers are looking at putting a tax on sugary drinks to curb obesity in Britain. Conditions such as Type 2 diabetes are straining health budgets. Would a tax on sugar help?


YES Many years ago as an 18-year-old, I spent two weeks at the Outward Bound School at Loitokitok in Kenya. My group consisted of five strapping African girls, one rather weedy Indian (me) and our American volunteer leader. We spent a never-to-be-forgotten fortnight, charging around on the plains and the slopes of a then unspoiled Kilimanjaro. As we tearfully said goodbye to each other, our leader presented us with a farewell present, a single Mars bar each. This was a luxury, the rarest of treats. I vividly remember cutting mine into five neat pieces, indulging in one immediately, and carefully wrapping the others to be savoured over the following days.

Why do I inflict this piece of nostalgia on you? To point out that though Mars bars, or fizzy drinks, are not necessary for health and wellbeing, I, along with many others, like them a lot. And like the truffles and foie gras that I also have come to enjoy, they should be expensive and occasional indulgences. This is possibly the most important purpose of a sugar tax: redefining unnecessary products as treats to be had sparingly.

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In Prospect’s February issue: Lawrence Summers questions Robert J Gordon’s thesis on the impact of the digital revolution, John Sawers, the former Chief of MI6, highlights how technology is making the work of spies harder and Frank Furedi examines the student movements demanding protection from the offensive and uncomfortable. Also in this issue: Gershom Gorenberg on Israel, Ben Judah on the complexity of London and Elizabeth Pisani on the impact of fake drugs. Plus Sam Tanenhaus on Obama’s gun control plans.