Columnist - Aasma Day: This sugar tax leaves a nasty taste in the mouth

Psst...wanna buy some white stuff? A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down... Well, yes it may well do, Mary Poppins, but the chances are it's going to cost you a lot more in the future.

Tuesday, 12th April 2016, 12:51 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th April 2016, 1:57 pm

There’s been a lot of debate following George Osborne’s sugar-coated budget and many have found the sugar tax a bitter pill to swallow. I’m not a fan of the syrupy tax – purely because I resent being told by the Government what I can and can’t eat. And I think it’s a real mistake to make something seem forbidden as we all know forbidden fruit – although in this case it’s not fruit that’s been forbidden but cans of pop – makes it all the more attractive and appealing. Making something more expensive doesn’t work in stopping people wanting it and finding a way to pay for it … or looking for cheaper alternatives.

First they came for the smokers, then they went after the drinkers – and now they’re targeting those of us with a sweet tooth. I don’t smoke and think the smoking ban was one of the greatest things to happen as it means I can go out and not come back at the end of the night smelling like an ashtray. But if there are others who choose to smoke in the privacy of their home or huddled around a smoking shelter in full knowledge of the harm they are doing to their body, that is their choice and free will. We all know too much of things – good or bad – usually has a damaging effect on us, but surely education is the weapon leaving people to form their own decisions. That’s not to say those who want to give up smoking or drinking shouldn’t be supported. But wielding a big fat stick in the form of a sugar tax isn’t the answer as it is just dictating and telling people they can still indulge in their soft drink habit – they just have to pay more.

And what is it with the illogical clamping down on soft drinks while other sugary substances get away scot free. As it stands, this sugar tax might mean paying more to have a can of sugary pop. However, I could still go and buy a 1kg bag of sugar for as little as 50p and pour it down my neck without any financial consequences.

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The question is where do we draw the line? What’s next – a pie tax? A sausage roll fine? Or maybe a levy on sugar laden Blackpool rock? And are the sugar free alternatives really any better?

I’m pretty addicted to Pepsi Max. This might be a sugar free choice, but there are countless reports outlining the dangers of artificial sweeteners and even linking them to cancer. The thing is sugar tastes nice. If we want to indulge in a sinful dessert or wash down our food with a sugary soft drink, surely that’s our individual choice and responsibility. It’s hardly like it’s crack cocaine. But the likelihood is that if they carry on treating sugar as this big bad villain that we must avoid at all costs and putting a hefty tax on it, all they’ll do is send the problem underground.

How long is it before people start doing “sugar runs” in the same way as they do with cigarettes and go abroad to smuggle back as many packs of cheap sugar as they can fit into their suitcase without having to pay excess baggage?

Frankly, if I want to cultivate my spare tyre or grow my backside even bigger by guzzling sugar, that’s entirely up to me. A sugar tax won’t change bad habits – all it will achieve is to make the rich fatter and raise the price for those who can least afford it. It all leaves a rather nasty taste in the mouth.