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Tue 19 Oct 2010 02:54 PM

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Fat tax needed to cut diabetes epidemic

Top doctor calls for government fines on junk food to tackle chronic disease

Fat tax needed to cut diabetes epidemic
Almost 40 percent of Emirati women are classified as obese

governments must declare war on diabetes by imposing a fat tax on junk food to
deter consumers, a leading doctor has said.

states must enforce tough measures including fines or outright bans on
processed food and drinks if the region’s diabetes epidemic is to be curbed,
said Dr Karim Meeran, professor of endocrinology,
Imperial College London, UK.

“It is time for governments to step in with
policies that encourage healthy behaviour, such as the ban on smoking or fines
on smoking which in the UK have proven to have positive effect,” Dr Meeran told
delegates at a healthcare conference in Abu Dhabi.

“Policies that encourage people to eat more
healthily, exercise more and lead an active lifestyle are now required to
divert a diabetes epidemic.”

According to data from the International Diabetes
Federation, diabetes is estimated to affect 18.7 per cent of the UAE adult
population, the second highest prevalence worldwide.

About 25 percent of Emirati men and
almost 40 percent of women in the country are classified as obese.

In Saudi Arabia, the Gulf’s most populous state,
more than 12 percent of adults aged between 20 and 79-years-old are diabetic.
According to IDF data, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman rank among the top eight
countries worldwide for diabetes prevalence.

“Weight control and the management of obesity
levels are crucial lifestyle environmental factors that can help create
healthier nations,” said Dr Meeran. “A 10 percent drop in weight can lead to a
10 percent drop in risk of death.”

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ian 9 years ago

Why have all governments not wakened up to this fact and, that any levy imposed on unhealthy foodstuffs be used to subsidise the production and sale of healthy foods; hence encouraging people to buy these foods rather than the processed rubbish they cram into their mouths every day

Mike 9 years ago

So those of us with self control who regard fast food as an occasional easy meal rather than part of our staple diet and who have the self control as well as a commitment to being healthy have to pay more. Why should we pay for other peoples greed, laziness and gluttony? Fast food is choice people make - it is a conscious decision an individual makes to walk in the shop and buy. Taxing the masses for the minority's failings is not the way forward. Education about not just healthy eating but an ethical, greener lifestyle is how it should be approached. This is an individual responsibility not a government one.

gordon 9 years ago

Corn is heavily subsidised in the states and this is what they use to feed cows
This is strange because cows are bovine as such they are supposed to eat grass.
They also feed them chicken feathers, blood, fish and soybeans.
Even the blood is from fellow cows.

How can fruit and veg compete with that?

If a family has a tight budget then it is obvious they go for the cheapest solution.

So price has to be addressed.

AED 17 for a big mac value meal vs 35 for a salad explains it all.

Rebecca 9 years ago

Unfortunately we are a fast food generation that have grown up not knowing the damage that fast and processed foods can do to our bodies. However now that the truth is out there it is time to change our eating habits and stop killing our children by letting them eat these foods. The statistics worldwide are shocking and state that 50% of children only eat vegetables once a month yet have fast food 3 times a week. If we don't make a change now our children will have for the first time in history a shorter lifespan then thier parents. So I agree the Governments need to stem this tide of obesity and disease and help thier citizens make the change. Use the fat tax to promote healthy products and help healthy food companies to compete with the fast food giants.

Twinkle 9 years ago

Actually, Gordon, I disagree. It's far cheaper to buy regionally grown fruit and vegetables and make tasty curries, salads etc yourself.

For example a family of four - Dhs 68 for Value Meals.
A local cauliflower (Dhs 5), a local cabbage (Dhs 5), some spices (negligible), a Lebanese potato (Dhs 2), two packets of rotlis (Dhs 2) and you have a vegetable curry for the whole family for Dhs 14.

The problem is that people are tired and lazy, don't plan ahead and can't be bothered cooking.

mariam 9 years ago

there is something called self-accountability, it is our health, after all - not need of government intervention or taxes!
the key to this is education to people on nutrition, more venues and events to promote healthy living and exercise, cheaper options on healthy food, as well as healthy lunch options in school, in kids' parties, mall playgrounds, food courts, etc.

gordon 9 years ago

wow....Twinkle...I am going to start eating at home...even sounds tasty

OB 9 years ago

This idea is ridiculous. A fat tax will be regressive and thus only "hurt" the poor. Why taxes? Why not have a government sponsored scheme that offers credits in one form or another to people who exercise at the gym or local health club. Something that involves giving rather than the usual suction would be a welcome change.

TelcoGuy 9 years ago

So much for the taxes, now the downside:

They could of course lead to a black marker but sincerely i do not see the mafia moving KFC a la South Park. It was a great episode BTW, very much to the point.

More worryingly, there may be no alternatives... @Twinkle, excuse my question, but are you a man? I ask because i t sounds like you took the cost of labor out of your meal cost!!!! That is actually the biggest issue as some people have pointed, women traditionally cooked for the family and that may sound old-fashioned, but it was a great contribution in terms of value added. When both parties work there is simply no time or energy, and while single can cook, cooking just for yourself is not easy as you feel lazy. I know, it happens to me.

Most important, I seriously doubt that increasing the price of a MacBurger 5 or 10 dirhams will have any effect on the local population (whom I suspect is the main target of this measure). This is the reason i think this will not work.

TelcoGuy 9 years ago

I know this is unpopular, but there are sound reasons to use taxes as a disincentive for certain behaviors.

First, it is, in general, effective. They are cheap and easy to implement, and in those times provide extra income.

Second it is fair, only people with that behavior pay for it. So @mike, if you have such self-control the cost for you will be negligible, why complain?

Third subsidies are tricky. They open the door to corruption (see @Gordon or EU's CAP for a perfect example!) and they can cost a lot of money that simply is not available today. So @OB how can you enforce that people who get a gym subsidy actually use it?

Subsidizing healthy food sounds good, but how can you match this with a tax-free environment? I am surprised when i see people with western names who likely moved here for the no taxes asking for subsidies! Also I think there would be political cost to provide subsidies that are not targeted to the local population.

Now for the cons...