The next public health war?
Watch out sugar.

By Emily Barley

I was getting ready for work this morning when the news on the radio announced some people calling for a tax on sugar.

I spent the journey in thinking through all of the reasons why a tax on sugar is a terrible idea. I was going to write a nice ‘listicle’ style blog: 5 reasons a tax on sugar is madness.

However, that felt a bit too much like engaging on ‘their’ (paternalist, ‘public health’ lobby) terms. So instead I am presenting one very big reason:

It is not their business to penalise people’s choices.

Any modern society should value and consider the opinions of experts. Experts are frequently very clever. The advice published today about the role of sugar in obesity and tooth decay is worth a look.

However, the cleverness of experts does not extend to giving them a right to decide the way in which we all should live. Each of us must, all day every day, make decisions about how we live our lives. This includes balancing risks and benefits, and choosing our own priorities.

The argument that individuals should be free to choose for themselves stands alone. But I think it is strengthened by the issue of personal responsibility: if you want people to do sensible, responsible things, how on earth do you expect restricting choice and issuing diktats to achieve that? You are creating responsibility-avoiding sheep, not thinking, reasoning people.

Think, reason and decide for yourself. If you suffer from the consequences (and lose a tooth, or get fat), reviewing your decisions is probably a good idea.

I despair that this creeping ‘for your own good’ policy-making has come this far.

When liberty means the freedom to eat cake
When liberty means the freedom to eat cake