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Health experts call for candy tax

Health experts call for candy tax

Published: 01 Apr 2010 09:02 GMT+02:00
Updated: 01 Apr 2010 09:02 GMT+02:00

Swedes consume twice the EU average and 30,000 - 60,000 children are so obese that they risk a premature death as a result of diabetes, cancer and heart attacks, the researchers argue in an opinion article in the Dagens Nyheter daily.

"It is high time for Sweden to discuss a sugar tax and perhaps use the money to cut taxes on fruit and vegetables," Claude Marcus, Stephan Rössner, Lennart Levi, André Persson and Thomas Hedlund write.

The three Karolinska Institutet researchers, co-authors of the popular book "Godis åt folket" (Sweets to the people), point to figures from the Swedish National Institute of Public Health (Folkhälsöinstitutet) showing that every second Swedish male and every third woman is overweight. Over 10 percent of the Swedish adult population is classified as obese.

Furthermore every fifth schoolchild is overweight, and 3-5 percent are obese - a doubling since 1990.

The five experts observe that according to the National Food Administration (Livsmedelsverket) almost 25 percent of the energy consumed by children up to 15-years-old is from fatty, sugar-enriched, and low nutrition foods.

"Of course exercise is important to increase energy expenditure but in reality it is a question of Swedes cutting consumption of high-energy foods," they write.

The experts argue that prices for sweets and soft drinks have not climbed as much as fruit and vegetables from 1985 to 2008, showing an effective relative decline of 56 and 6 percent respectively.

This development is the basis for their call to dramatically increase tax on sugary foodstuffs in order to curb high consumption.

Norway, Denmark and Iceland have already introduced selective purchase taxes on soft drinks and other sugary foods, the experts observe, and argue for Sweden to follow suit.

The example of tobacco and smoking is cited as an example of a successful application of price and tax mechanisms to curb consumption, with Sweden now enjoying one of the lowest rates of habitual smokers in the world (12 percent).

The experts refer to an instinctive resistance to selective taxes and moralizing as potential arguments against a new sugar tax, but argue that the deteriorating public health situation demands stern measures.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

09:25 April 1, 2010 by Mike #1986
rubbish anything to rob you for more cash.
09:40 April 1, 2010 by spreadthepeace
what's the date again today??
09:43 April 1, 2010 by Elton John
Lovely, a "fat tax" here in Sweden. The stupidity has no end here in Sweden. Why do Swedish politicians always try to dictate how John Doe should live his life? It looks like a case of three researchers trying to make a name in media (just like Annika Dahlqvist and other people alike). I quick search shows that this isn't the first time they make such appearances...

I have a better suggestion: Find out which of our researchers above have been able to publish top notch stuff in prestigious journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and fire the rest. The money saved on their salary can be used to reduce the taxes on vegetables.
10:00 April 1, 2010 by homestead
"Why do Swedish politicians always try to dictate how John Doe should live his life?"

It's certainly not limited to Sweden. We seem to have a universal overabundance of polticians, bureaucrats and so-called "experts" who have a strange need to dictate how the rest of us should live. Our mistake is always letting these people have the power to act on thier beliefs.
10:14 April 1, 2010 by Elton John
homestead: You are absolutely correct.

spreadthepeace: I do not think this is a joke. Google their names (+"skatt") and you'll see that this isn't the first time some of them are talking about this.
10:17 April 1, 2010 by duncs
Sounds good to me, but put a socialist spin on it. Tax the fat and give to the skinny.
10:54 April 1, 2010 by Sjayna
...'every second Swedish male and every third woman is overweight.'...Every FIFTH schoolchild is overweight, most of them because of the lack of responsible parents...Why care that millions of SEK goes to take care of these peoples health?
10:54 April 1, 2010 by Gower76
I have long nurtured a theory that Swedish adults, lovely though many are and reluctant as I am to generalise, are in many respects like children.

I can't remember the details but it had to do with the 'vuxenpoäng' concept and the way the state reduces the need for people to take responsibility for themselves.

Anyway, I think this might be the clincher. How bizarre it is to see grown men elbowing up against little kids in front of the wall of lösgodis drawers.
10:58 April 1, 2010 by summo
In Sweden is it like the UK, where you are supposed to go public with articles like these at 12noon to put people out of their misery?
12:01 April 1, 2010 by comfortably_numb
I am a strong believer that one should be free to make their own decisions, BUT not having the Government try to curb consumer spending will lead to the Free Market doing it instead and guess what, producing candy and junk food is much cheaper than producing fresh produce and healthy groceries.

Which means, if you are unfortunate enough to be in the lower income class, there is a strong statistical correlation, that you will most likely choose cheaper over healthier.

ICA MAX has their sweets on special just now for 29kr/Kg. I was in there the other day and there were people (adults and kids) literally attacking the stands, sweets all over the floor, and baskets stuffed with candy. Yes i understand its Easter, but looked like people were stalking up for the rest of the year.

By putting tax on junk food, the government isn't dictating Jon Doe's life, the individual still has the choice, just like he did when it is the Free Market dictating the price.

The point is: there is a strong correlation between price and consumer spending. If you let the free market decide the price, people will buy more junk food, if you let the govt do it, people 'in general' will tend to choose healthier.

The difference is the Gov't is at least supposed to act in the interest of the people. The free market companies are out there to make $$$$. Yes, both organizations have corruption but at least with the govt, people have the power (if they excercise it) to keep tabs on them.
12:16 April 1, 2010 by LailaC1
I think its a great idea!
12:19 April 1, 2010 by Draug
I wouldn't mind cheaper fruits and vegetables.
12:21 April 1, 2010 by zircon
Yeah, why not. Tax on an end industrial product is very clever.
12:22 April 1, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
Maybe people should get off their fat asses, exercise more, eat healthier.. Do we really need a Gov't to dictate every aspect of our lives.
12:33 April 1, 2010 by Audrian
60% of the US population is obese. With ideology of free market deeply entrenched, the focus in the US is physical exercise as a way of burning the calories, which should not have been taken in the first place.

Swedish people in the 1990s were slim people. To day the direction is not encouraging. Finland which also began to suffer from obesity took stern action a few years ago. It required schools to provide vegetarian food. Soft drinks and candies are not allowed to sell or bring in school premises. Children were not happy at first, but not anymore. Families are being taught to feed their children healthy food. The result is outstanding. Finland is becoming the country of slim/healthy children.

High prices combined with measures such as the elimination of tax on vegetables might be the way to go. Otherwise, what Sweden should do is learn from Finland.
12:34 April 1, 2010 by comfortably_numb
@ Ponce Deleon,

Yes everyone should get off their asses and eat healthier. But you are less likely to eat healthier if its cheaper to fill your belly with junk food. Gov't isnt trying to dictate your life, you still have the choice to do whatever you want. But for those who are short on cash , trying to save $$$, or are single parents with minimum income, its the price of goods that has a huge impact on how they live their lives.
12:40 April 1, 2010 by summo
spread the peace, I get a feeling that this particular date is only honoured by certain countries!?
12:42 April 1, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
Of course they are. Why then, do we have regressive taxes on food? You choose the food you eat. You give away 50% of your income in taxes and fees to the Gov't. You say you want more economic freedom, there it is comrade.
12:45 April 1, 2010 by Swedesmith
How about a tax on politicians? Any person entering into politics would have to pay a hefty tax to help alleviate all the damage they will inevitably cause due to their incompetent leadership.
13:05 April 1, 2010 by calebian22
Well considering that everyone else is paying for the fatties, in regards to healthcare, this should come as no surprise. The downside to socialized healthcare and socialism in general is that the government dictates the rules and is intrusive. High taxes on smoking and eating high sugared foods, why not? I sure don't want to pay for your gastric bypasses or your chemotherapy, because you make dumb decisions.
13:09 April 1, 2010 by bettan1
Absolutely incredible. Now we have the Health Gestopo or Stasi. I've never experienced a land where it's leadership devise more ways of extracting every last drop of blood out of it's citizens with nothing to show for it. or really give back. And like most all Socialist countries (including communism) it's leadership never abides or lives by the same rules it forces and imposes on everyone else. How utterly pathetic.

End of this year baby, I'm outta here.
13:19 April 1, 2010 by scrawler
happy April fool day :)
13:24 April 1, 2010 by cbeynch
While, normally, I'm in the "reduce taxes/less government intervention" camp, here's a tax that I actually agree with. And don't hold back. Increase it substantially! A similar tax was introduced in New York City, with some success and NY State is now considering taxing sugary stuff even more. Go for it! It will do society good. Perhaps we can the reduce some other taxes instead.
13:30 April 1, 2010 by FACTSPOLICE
Think about it, why is it that Junk Food and Candy is more expensive than healthy foods? We all know the consequence of over indulgence in Candy. I agree 100 percent that Fruits and Vegetables should not carry a high tax, but candy and all that junk food should! I agree also that parents are responsible for their kids, and without the parents, kids would not have the means to buy the candy, so too speak. Moderation is always best, but when it comes to fairness, the duty or tax on healthy foods should always be kept to a minimum, if not, not even taxed.
13:38 April 1, 2010 by Nemesis
Leaving aside the fact it is an april fools day story, it is a good idea.

A sugar tax would go a long way to improving the health of any country.
14:10 April 1, 2010 by glamelixir
Is it my or candy is already pretty expensive in Sweden.

I also think that Swedes are not sugar eaters at all!!!

They should check Argentina's dulce de leche or the gelatto passion down there hahaa.
15:39 April 1, 2010 by Nifty
Candy?I thought this was a swedish news in english site.
16:03 April 1, 2010 by Elton John
betta1: Take me with you!
17:03 April 1, 2010 by alingsaskev
April fool me thinks!

But there was one particular statistic in the report that made me chuckle:

"The example of tobacco and smoking is cited as an example of a successful application of price and tax mechanisms to curb consumption, with Sweden now enjoying one of the lowest rates of habitual smokers in the world (12 percent)."

It made me giggle because the other 82% are all sticking tiny tobacco filled tea bags under their upper lip!
20:05 April 1, 2010 by coswede
swedish men candy-eating-pussys
10:22 April 2, 2010 by xenyasai
There is a medical theory that sugar lowers the immune system in the stomach; which might explain why kräksjukan is so extreme in Sweden.

@Elton John: Sadly this is what happens when people make decisions that will cost the society and the government more money. Of course, just look across to norway who has had this type of tax for years and it has no effect at all, other than making the politicians richer.
14:14 April 2, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
April fools? Those who suggested this Tax and those who agree with it.. Sheep..
15:00 April 2, 2010 by Sjayna
You who think that a coast on 15 milliard kr per year is nothing to whine about are probably fat people or total idiots.The western food culture and the lack of self-responsibility have leaded to increasing number of fat people. At least they can pay for their self destructive behaviour. Start to feed a isolated and healthy community with western food, white bread, hamburgers, sweets... In a single generation they will be overwhelmed by diseases as diabetes, heart diseases etc. Western culture = advanced?...hahaa..
19:23 April 2, 2010 by alingsaskev
@ Sjayna,

If you took an isolated culture and began to feed them on a western diet, they would most likely flourish.

If however, you fed them on a western diet gave them a car, sat them behind a desk all day, gave them a comfy sofa, a TV and Internet access, instilled a sense of fear in them that there were dangers lurking around every bend and encouraged their children not to play outside, if you provided them with every labour saving device available... and then fed them half a pound of pick'n'mix.... well then yes, there is every chance they would pack on a few pounds.
21:41 April 2, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
These Gov't sanctions are not shocking. They are a natural progression. The state has only one tool in their kit, "taxes". It is the only option they use to try to modify the behavior of it's subjects.

Please list a social problem, that has been approached by the Gov't, which was solved by taxing individuals..

If people choose to be fat, lazy, and stupid let them suffer the consequences of those decisions.

I don't want a Gov't that takes away my freedom and then tells me it is for my own good. The more you define freedom, the less you have.
15:31 April 3, 2010 by Rebel
"60% of the US population is obese. With ideology of free market deeply entrenched, the focus in the US is physical exercise as a way of burning the calories, which should not have been taken in the first place."

You exagerate the rates of obesity by at least doubling them. Yet there are a lot of fat people in the US -- food is cheap and the poor are given generous food stamp allotments. You know, you go to a poor neighborhood and you see fat people, a working class neighborhood and you see fat women married to skinny mne (the men smoke and work off the extra calories). In middle income and upper income neighborhoods you rarely see fat people. So your ideology argument falls short unless you want to blame poor people obesity on getting too many government handouts.
19:46 April 3, 2010 by Sjayna
alingsaskev, the decadent lifestyle including the 'instilled sense of fear', as you described well, equals self extermination...

Rebel, in US the difference in obesity between incomes are only little and as the experts says; everybody is exposed for the same food culture/environment...

USA continue to pack on pounds,it seems that in 10 years almost 50 % of the people of FREEDOM will be obese,some states have all ready reached that. The obesity epidemic is spreading In many western countries...Education? 'Sugar/fat damaged' brains are not so open for healthy eating tips...Ok, maybe Sweden should practise/apply to a greater extent the REVOLUTIONARY deveploment/solutions of weight loss surgeries, fat and psycho drugs...sure...Its natural and a matter of course that a toxic and greedy medical business gain,hmm...Freedom? The fat people, people living decadent are captured not free...Why lie to yourself ?...hahaa..
02:16 April 4, 2010 by Beavis
Where are all these "fat" Swedes hiding?

Is there a hidden colony somewhere off Åland??

I think it comes more down to the perception of "overweight" Ive seen perfectly healthy looking people here on weight loss programmes.

Id say the amount of underweight people in Sweden is shockingly highter than overweight. (Just take a trip to Sturplan on a weekend and see the skin and bone)

I say leave the "fat foods" alone and takle a more serious problem "diet" foods, thow a 50% higher tax on them.
13:33 October 29, 2010 by rangojigi
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
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