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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
Head-to-head: Fat tax
Burger
Obesity rates are growing
Like the rest of the developed world, obesity poses a serious problem for the UK.

Latest figures suggest nearly a quarter of the population is clinically obese, and almost 10% of deaths are obesity-related.

Some people believe radical solutions - such as new taxes - are required.

GILES COREN

Times columnist and restaurant critic

I would take the square root of the Body Mass Index, so you get a nice curving graph so you can apply it in a proportional way.

I would then divide it by 100 and multiply it by your tax liability.

It is a lack of restraint, a lack of self-respect
Giles Coren

For example, if your BMI is 36 - which is probably what John Prescott's is - you take the square root of that, which would be six, and divide it by 100, giving you a figure of 6%.

Then, suppose your tax liability is 10,000, you would pay an extra 600 a year in tax.

Being overweight is not an addiction - it didn't exist 50 years ago.

It is a lack of restraint, a lack of self-respect. A lot of it is to do with a lack of education, and a failure to understand things such as the nutritional value of the things they eat.

The Liberal Democrats have occasionally mooted things like a sugar tax, and people have talked about taxing the saturated fat content of processed foods.

It seems to be a reasonable way to go, but it is not really fair on me.

I am able to control myself and eat a bag of chips every now and again, so there is no reason why I should have to pay more.

My idea does sound a bit absurd, but it is just an extreme and very direct attempt at a solution, because this really is a huge crisis and something drastic does need to be done.

  • Body Mass Index is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and one 30 or above is considered obese.

    DR IAN CAMPBELL

    GP and Medical Director of the charity Weight Concern

    When I first read about his suggestions I had to check the date, I thought it was 1 April: it is a complete joke.

    There is no way you could tax people according to their weight. It is bureaucratically a nightmare, and it would also be grossly unfair.

    Make sure that there is an environment out there which is conducive to a healthier lifestyle
    Dr Ian Campbell

    Those in the lower socio-economic groups are much more likely to be overweight and obese.

    About 26% of those who are financially challenged are obese, compared with 17% in more affluent categories.

    So what you really would be doing is putting a tax on the poor, and I think that is completely and utterly unjustifiable.

    What we need to be doing is incentivising people, and encouraging them and supporting them, not punishing them by these nonsensical suggestions.

    The real answer lies in recognising for the first time that environment and health are inextricably linked.

    What we have to do is make sure that there is an environment out there which is conducive to a healthier lifestyle, and not to completely and utterly stigmatise these people.



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