UK 'fat tax' could save more than 3,000 lives

An article that is appearing in the August issue of Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health discusses the possible effects of instituting a tax on salty, sweet, and fatty foods including cookies, cakes, and processed meals.

Using consumption patterns provided by the National Food Survey of Great Britain, researchers at England's Oxford University are suggesting that a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 17.5 percent could have the effect of reducing consumer demand and, as a result, reducing heart attacks and strokes. Scientists claim the tax could save as many as 3,200 lives per year.

The higher tax has already been applied to certain products including potato chips, ice cream, and some sweets.

England's Food and Drink Federation opposes the tax, claiming it will hit lower income families the hardest. Others oppose the tax as well, claiming better education and accessibility to nutritional diet items will serve the same purpose.

It is estimated that approximately 25 percent of the British population qualifies as being obese.

"Tim Marsh, associate director of the National Heart Forum, has stated, "The UK is facing a crisis in diet-related illness, including obesity, caused by over-consumption of foods high in fat, sugar and salt."

Julian Hunt, a spokesman for the Food and Drink Federation, has stated that the research doesn't support the idea that the higher tax would change people buying habits. "It would result only in lighter wallets, not smaller waists."

A United States fat tax has been proposed on numerous occasions, so far to no avail. Yale University psychology professor Kelly D. Brownell has been an outspoken proponent of the tax. He has emphasized that raising the cost of soft drinks by only one cent would raise $1.5 billion annually. Brownell suggests using the proceeds of a fat tax to subsidize healthy foods.

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