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Centre Party councillor backtracks on obesity tax

TT/The Local/dl · 4 Jan 2011, 08:48

Published: 04 Jan 2011 08:48 GMT+01:00

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Stefan Hanna, a Centre Party councillor from Uppsala in eastern Sweden, admitted on his blog on Monday that his proposed obesity tax had “created lots of problems” and that many feel “insulted” by his idea.

Hanna came in for criticism at the weekend for having suggested that overweight Swedes should pay more in taxes because they put more demands on Sweden’s publicly funded social services than others.

"If it costs more to live unhealthily the collective society doesn't say NO! The society says do as you want, but if you elect to live unwisely then you have to pay extra so that we can fund any additional costs that you will cost society, if you get older," Hanna wrote on his blog last week.

On Monday, a resident of Linköping in central Sweden reported Hanna to the ombudsman for the obesity tax proposal.

“This is insulting affects many people,” the person wrote in the complaint, according to the Expressen newspaper.

In a new blog post published on Monday, Hanna said he wanted to “apologise to those who feel attacked by interpretations of my post”.

“I have always been clear that I believe that all people have equal value,” he added.

Hanna’s obesity tax isn’t the only unorthodox proposal to be aired on his blog.

In another post, he suggests that people who defraud the state through phony benefits claims ought to be forced to dress up in hyena suits and stand outside of area shopping centres.

"It’s not okay to use fraud to take advantage of the positive system we have in place for the weakest," wrote Hanna in a November 18th posting.

"I think that everyone convicted for having stolen money in this way should pay back every krona with high interest, be sent to prison, and when they are released from their prison sentences they should round off repaying their debt to society by standing outside our shopping centres with a hyena costume and a note where it states, ‘I stole money from the weakest in our society’."

Speaking with the Aftonbladet newspaper, the chair for the Centre Party’s Uppsala district, Anne Lennartsson, explained that Hanna’s blog represented his “own reflections” and didn’t necessarily represent the views of the party as a whole.

However, she admitted that the party had debated what she referred to as a “calorie tax” which she likened to taxes currently placed on alcohol and tobacco.

Story continues below…

“It’s a proposal that’s been discussed, even if it is difficult politically to decide where to draw the line,” she told the newspaper.

In Monday’s mea culpa, Hanna admitted that he had “found a few less than appropriate writings” following a review of his roughly 360 blog posts.

“I apologise for these and hope like my blog says that I can win over the trust of many in the future despite what’s currently circulating,” he wrote.

TT/The Local/dl (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

09:34 January 4, 2011 by ISayWhatPeopleThink
The public is prepared to accept your apology. Now please leave your "backtrack tax" and your "blogging instead of working tax" in the coffers on your way out. Thanks.
09:46 January 4, 2011 by Keith #5083
So now he has to apologise for exercising freedom of speech? It was only an idea, a thought, and it has helped focus attention on one of the major health problems in society.

I don't agree with him - but I don't think he should have to apologise for expressing his sincerely held views.

Stefan Hanna - your motives were good now maybe you can find an alternative mechanism for the expression of them. But, HEY, never apologise for trying to encourage others to be healthier :)
10:04 January 4, 2011 by glamshek
Fats should pay more tax....Hahahha, Joke of the century
11:12 January 4, 2011 by Great Scott
Yet again, more Swedish incompetence. Resignation please.
11:19 January 4, 2011 by zooeden
Let them pay god damn it!
11:48 January 4, 2011 by johnny1939
Swedes are svelte compared to Americans and Brits so we have a bit to go before taxing becomes necessary.
12:22 January 4, 2011 by fikatid
In the US, the 24 Hour Fitness gym once had a billboard that says,

"When the aliens come, they eat the fat ones first."

The fatties complained and they were forced to take the billboard down. There's no freedom of speech in the US either. :)
13:39 January 4, 2011 by bocale1
Since tobacco and alcohol are heavily taxed because considered unhealthy, I do not see anything wrong in applying taxes to fat people; once demonstrated that this not the result of a patologic disease but just the outcome of wrong habits, I do not see anything wrong in asking money for this.
15:49 January 4, 2011 by alingsaskev
" I may not agree with what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it"

I don't agree with Herr. Hanna, but he should be free to express his concerns at rising levels of obesity.

My true concerns with his argument are simple: Swedes live under some of the highest tax burdens in the world and thanks to careful fiscal management on the part of the Swedish government are one of only a handful of European nations with a budget surplus.

Is it fair then to suggest adding extra lifestyle taxes on top of already crushing taxes? I don't think so.

Either have a welfare state where everyone pays for the welfare of the state, or have an insurance system whereby everyone is assessed by an actuary, but DON'T mix the two as that places an unfair burden on the few.
17:22 January 4, 2011 by ChrisPDX
I have a dream that will never happen.

I would like to see a huge tax on Aspartame, MSG, and High Fructose Corn Syrup.

I believe that these 3 ingredients alone cause the obesity that we see today.

The other day I had a Coke shipped in from Mexico. It was made with sugar, not HFCS. It tasted so much better than the USA crap.

MSG makes my heart race.

Aspartame seems to crate a void in my body that I cannot satisfy. Some say that it makes one crave carbohydrates.

Back to nature, I say!
17:47 January 4, 2011 by Déjà Vu
@fikatid - that advert was at a gym in the UK, not the US. Nonetheless, I still found it to be quite funny :-)

I actually agree with Hanna's reasoning, he's just implementing legislation in the wrong way. Truth to the matter is, obesity does cost the system more money in the long run. However, some people - despite their efforts - are genetically incapable of remedying this problem. So, instead of penalizing people based on physical attributes (because this, of course, would be a Pandora's Box in the long run), they should offer tax write-offs for gym memberships, and should add an extra tax to fast food, junk food products, candies, sodas, etc. Not enough to make it a complete wash for anyone to afford these "luxuries" every once and a while, but enough to curb purchases from people who continually consume these goods.

Alternatively, tax strategies could be geared toward companies that produce (or export into SVE) products that are either high or low in bad elements such as Corn Syrups, etc.

@the above poster, Aspartame is also shown in lab rats to cause brain cancers! :-( Only problem is, if you substitute low calorie sweeteners with pure ones, you are perpetuating the cycle of high-calorie products, so it's a catch 22. Best to start promoting the use of products such as the Stevia plant, a natural sweetener that is low calorie (although it definitely doesn't taste the same...)
22:05 January 4, 2011 by anticommie
Fat people cost more in healthcare expense than smokers. Fat people should be taxed for costing so much to take care of their bad habit of shoving food down their pie hole.
22:56 January 4, 2011 by Amber Dawn
The other day I had a Coke shipped in from Mexico. It was made with sugar, not HFCS. It tasted so much better than the USA crap.

Soda in Sweden is made with real sugar.
00:00 January 5, 2011 by maxbrando
You live in a country devoid of reality, where ideas are not even expressable, much less debatable. No wonder the rate of asylum seekwers is skyrocketing. You have muzzeled yourselves, you females. If you think anyone will bail you out in the future you are dead wrong. You abandoned your neighbors in the last century because of your sense of superiority. No one is coming to stop the internal slaughter that is coming. God, I cannot wait to read about it!!!
19:20 January 6, 2011 by Nysvensk
Ok, so Hanna has unorthodox views. They are not half as wacky as several well-known and televised commentators in the US. Aside from that, what is the ill-will thing you have going about Sweden, Maxbrando? Internal slaughter? I guess you haven't read that Sweden has managed to assimilate most of its "new Swedes" better than most other countries in Europe. I have lived here for 30 years and, though it is not perfect, it is run a lot better than many countries around the world. Anyway, that has nothing to do with obesity. What bugs me is that the photo accompanying this article is pretty obviously showing Americans, not Swedes. There might be a Swede here and there that is extremely obese but it is not anywhere like in the US!
00:53 January 7, 2011 by einsteins monkey
that picture was actually taken in östermalm outside of saluhall.
08:52 January 7, 2011 by Rebel
So the next time Michelle Obama comes to Sweden she better not say anything that someone might consider negative about obesity. Also, all the doctors in the UK who have said we need to combat obesity as it is the #1 health issue of this day had better stay out of Sweden as well.

Big Brother has spoken...free speech, Swedish style, is safe. Long live Big Brother.
21:35 January 7, 2011 by SilverBattleAxe
As long as governments/politicians are paid off by corporations to allow unhealthy foods such as Aspartame, GMOs, HFCS, etc. to be consumed, problems such as obesity will continue. Why are foods that are clearly unhealthy allowed to remain on the market? Because governments are run by and told what to do by corporations that are only interested in how much money they're making and not about people's health. Aspartame, GMOs, and HFCS are all slow-death poisons. Corporations only get away with putting them into food because short term health problems are difficult to prove.

@Deja Vu, Aspartame and has been shown to stimulate carbohydrate cravings and has therefore been shown to be ineffective for weight control. People that use aspartame are no better off for weight control than those that use sugar. However, those that are using sugar as a sweetener and not consuming aspartame are less likely to get brain cancer.
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