Friday, 1 June 2018

Sugar taxes happily absent from WHO report

The World Health Organisation published its report on 'non-communicable diseases' this morning. It's full of coercive paternalism, naturally, but despite intense lobbying by Michael Bloomberg and the state-funded nanny state racket, taxes on food and soft drink are conspicuous by their absence.

I've just been watching the webcast of the launch event in which the WHO had to defend itself from the predictable but absurd allegation that the panel was in the pocket of Big Sugar/Big Soda. It was made clear that many of the panel members would have been happy for sugar taxes to be included as one of the WHO's 'best buys' but that it was impossible to get consensus because other members recognised that there was insufficient evidence that they actually worked.

Bizarrely, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeatedly stated that the report would not change the WHO's position on sugar taxes (which has been rabidly pro for the last two years).

When asked why he bothered commissioning the report if he was going to ignore its findings, Tedros said that he agreed with 99 per cent of it, so it didn't matter if he ignored the little bits he disagreed with.

I put a comment out for the IEA earlier, saying:

“The WHO’s decision to exclude taxes on food and drink from its list of formal recommendations is welcome. Sugar taxes have never reduced obesity anywhere. They only raise the cost of living and clobber people on low incomes.

The WHO’s independent panel recognises that the evidence for sugar taxes is insufficient for them to be included as ‘best buys’. Although the WHO continues to support sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, the exclusion of food and drink is good news for the world’s poor.”

Incidentally, I was interested to see this brief report in the Seattle Times...

The World Health Organization is backing away from its own call two years ago for taxing sugary drinks, in a new report that some experts slammed as being “conspicuously limp.”

In 2016, the U.N. health agency urged countries to tax sugar-laden drinks like sodas and sport drinks as a way to fight obesity and diabetes. Back then, it said a 20 percent price increase in such drinks would dramatically cut consumption.

But in a report published Friday, WHO experts pointedly dropped any recommendation to tax sugary beverages. WHO said that regarding sugar taxation, “some views were conflicting and could not be resolved.”

Jack Winkler, an emeritus professor of nutrition policy at London Metropolitan University, said that amid the rising obesity epidemic, WHO’s failure to recommend sugar taxation was “particularly absurd.”

Could this be the same Jack Winkler who wrote an article titled 'Why soft drink taxes won't work' (2012)? The same Jack Winkler who wrote in 2013...

...the core conclusion remains unaltered: soft drinks taxes will not work.

The same Jack Winkler who wrote in 2015 that soda taxes are 'especially regressive taxes that disproportionately affect poorer people' and are 'economically ineffective'...

Why are we still debating this idea? Nutrition policy needs price instruments but a more positive selection. Sugar taxes are unlikely to be adopted and would not make much difference if they were.

By George, I think it is!

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