Centre Party councillor backtracks on obesity tax

Centre Party councillor backtracks on obesity tax
A local Swedish politician who suggested levying a tax linked to people's weight has apologised for the controversial proposal after it was reported to Sweden's Ombudsmen for Justice (Justitieombudsmännen - JO).

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.

“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.

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