Too much sugar is bad for you, everyone knows that. In fact, sugar’s reputation is such that more than half the people in Britain are now in favour of a tax on sugary food and drink. But, argues Guardian data editor Alberto Nardelli, sin taxes are regressive. And judging by data from around the world, they may not even work.
1. The sugar tax would be a good subject for a classroom debate. You could divide the class into two and get them to prepare arguments either for or against this proposal: "This house believes that the government should introduce a sugar tax to fight the obesity crisis." The video could be shown after the debate, when students would be in a better position to give their own opinion.
2. Use the transcript below to create a gap fill activity. Click here to see one I created using Clickschool (more of which in a later post).
• Teacher Mini Debate Guide (ProQuest)
• Essential Tips for Conducting a Class Debate (BusyTeacher)
• Sugar Tax Debate (Economics Help)
• Should There Be a Tax on Soda and Other Sugary Drinks? (WSJ)
• Is sugar the new evil? Arguments for and against the grain (The Independent)
• Why soda taxes don't work (Fortune)
Fears about the health risk of sugar are well founded, and now more than half of Brits are favouring a sugar tax. But is this the answer? Do the numbers add up? Flat, indirect taxes such as sin taxes hit the poorest hardest. People in the bottom fifth of the income stream who drink moderately, smoke, and drive a car spend about 37 percent of their disposable household income on sin taxes and VAT. The comparable figure for people in the top fifth of the income stream is 15 percent, and there's little evidence that an increase in the price of sugary drinks nudges people towards healthier alternatives. In October 2011, Denmark introduced a tax on foods high in saturated fat. The obesity-tackling measure made pizza, oils, dairy products, bacon and butter more expensive. But then a year later the tax was reversed. Why? Well, authorities said the measure had inflated food prices so much that jobs were at risk, and some people were just crossing the border to Germany to get their food. Also, sellers can just discount the prices. For example, in Berkeley, California where a sugar tax was adopted, only 22 percent of it was passed on to consumers. So the shops were taking the hit. In the US, consumption of fizzy drinks has fallen by 25 percent over the past decade, but this is largely due to the wider awareness around health and other policies. It's also fallen in places where there hasn't been any talk of a sugar tax, so it can't all be down to one single policy. So, make no mistake, sugary soft drinks have a ruinous effect on people's health, and government must do something to tackle the obesity crisis, but before we introduce a sugar tax, we need to get our numbers in order.