Call for chocolate tax sparks debate
LONDON (AFP) - Chocolate should be taxed like alcohol and tobacco, to help rein in a growing obesity problem, a British medical conference was told Thursday.
People generally understimate the health dangers of chocolate, family doctor David Walker told the British Medical Association conference, leading a debate on the issue.
"I believe that chocolate is a major player in obesity and obesity-related conditions. What I'm trying to get across is that chocolate is sneaking under the radar of unhealthy foods," he said.
"I would say the government taxing chocolate would not solve the obesity crisis but it might slow the rate of increase of the obesity graph."
Critics say the idea of taxing chocolate would simply not work.
"Introducing regressive taxes on the foods that consumers love would result only in lighter wallets, not smaller waists," Julian Hunt of the Food and Drink Federation told the BBC.
"While good for grabbing headlines, there is no evidence to suggest that such 'fat taxes' would actually work in reality.
He noted that the BMA debated a similar motion in 2003, and it was rejected because doctors thought it would not reduce obesity, would hit poor people most and would be difficult to administer.
Professor Roger Corder of The London School of Medicine said Walker was concentrating on the wrong problem. "Targetting chocolate is misguided. If we targeted sugar, you'd capture all unhealthy foods," he told the BBC.
"Perhaps the general population is being duped to some extent, because all dark chocolate is being bracketed as healthy by many companies.
"In fact only chocolate which are high in a natural component called flavanoids are actually beneficial," he added.
Walker acknowleged that his proposal would not be a vote winner.
"It would be a brave government to do it, but I think it would show a signal of intent that they really are serious about tackling obesity and foods that are potentially damaging to health," he said.