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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 15:38 GMT
Blair rejects 'fat tax' proposal
Tony Blair at a Big Conversation event on Thursday
Blair says people would react against a 'fat tax'
Tony Blair has said his aides' idea for a tax on fatty foods such as cakes and biscuits would make Britain too much like a "nanny state".

The Prime Minister's Strategy Unit reportedly proposed raising duties as part of efforts to combat obesity.

But on Thursday, Mr Blair argued giving more information about healthy food would be more effective.

He told a Labour Party Big Conversation event: "People don't want to live in a nanny state."

Mr Blair continued: "I, personally, would be careful of going into fat taxes, banning this and banning that. People would actually react against the very thing you are trying to do."

Dairy products: fresh butter, cheddar cheese, full fat milk
Fast food: Cheeseburger, takeaway pizza, potato wedges
Sweets: Milk chocolate bar, Danish pastry, butter toffee popcorn

Source: strategy unit paper according to the Times

Last month, the Times newspaper said the strategy unit's paper, titled Personal Responsibility and Changing Behaviour, highlighted a rise in NHS spending on obesity-related disease.

"The main drivers - poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle - are largely outside the direct influence of the NHS," said the document.

It suggested a number of policies such as a national sports drive along the lines of the successful Active Australia strategy, and lifestyle lessons in schools.

Tax 'life-saving'

A new tax or the extension of VAT was also proposed for some dairy products, fast food and sweets.

"This would be a signal to producers as well as consumers and serve more broadly as a signal to society that nutritional content in food is important," said the document.

Last year doctors at the British Medical Association (BMA) debated a proposal to impose the full 17.5% VAT rate on a wider range of high-fat foods such as biscuits, cakes and processed meals.

The full 17.5% rate is already charged on some foods including fizzy drinks, crisps and heated burgers.

The British Medical Journal recently claimed a 'fat tax' could help prevent 1,000 premature deaths from heart disease every year in the UK.

But critics said such a tax would hit lower income families who already spend a higher proportion of their income on food and drink.

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