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Swedes back punitive tax on junk food

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 24 Mar 2009, 09:54

Published: 24 Mar 2009 09:54 GMT+01:00

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Nearly two thirds of Swedes - 65 percent - support a tax on unhealthy foods, according to a Sifo survey commissioned by the Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden) which argues that scientific evidence linking eating habits and cancer is becoming conclusive.

Fully 86 percent of those surveyed are also in favour of lower taxes on healthier foods and 75 percent claim that they would change their eating habits as a result.

Despite the resounding support for preventative action to tackle the burgeoning obesity crisis and its effect on the spread of common forms of cancer, Swedish politicians are lukewarm to the idea.

Only 89 of the 293 members of parliament surveyed by the Swedish National Institute of Public Health (Statens folkhälsoinstitut - FHI) consider higher taxes on "junk foods" a viable alternative.

However a resounding majority, 164 of the 293 surveyed, were positive to reducing taxes on healthy foods.

Obesity is directly linked to the most common deadly forms of cancer such as breast and colonic cancer, according the Cancer Society argues in a opinion article in Dagens Nyheter on Monday.

The society cites recently published reports from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research to support its claim that scientific evidence is becoming conclusive in showing the clear causal link between obesity and cancer.

According to the Cancer Society's 2009 report, a third of the 22,000 Swedes that die from cancer each year could be saved with effective preventative measures.

The society also warns that cancer is in danger of becoming a class issue which hits those on lower incomes and lower levels of education hardest.

While working class Swedes are among those who most regularly consume "junk foods" they are among those most in favour of using tax incentives to encourage healthier eating habits, the Sifo survey indicates.

It is also among these groups that knowledge of the connection between obesity and common deadly forms of cancer, such a colonic cancer and breast cancer, is at its lowest.

The society argues that information is in itself however insufficient to address the problem and urges the government to act to use legal measures and tax incentives to prevent the spread of obesity and cancer.

Story continues below…

The government was in February presented with a report from a state committee tasked with developing recommendations for a national cancer strategy.

The Cancer Society argues that a campaign along the lines of the anti-smoking measures, which has seen smoking banned in most inside areas across Sweden, is needed to raise awareness and begin to tackle the problem.

Cases of cancer have increased steadily in Sweden in recent decades and every third Swede can currently expect to be hit during their life time. In 20 years the number of Swedes living with cancer will have doubled, the society warns.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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