Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
Action on Sugar, a campaigning group born from the Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH), has called for a sugar tax to “address the childhood obesity crisis”. This proposal is part of a seven-point plan:
This seven-point plan is built on several incorrect assumptions: childhood obesity requires a “halt”, and childhood obesity is caused by increased calorific intake from sugars, which should be specifically targeted. The press release uses “ultra-processed” three times, but nowhere defines this term.
According to the Health & Social Information Centre’s 2014 report, 2004 and 2005 were the years where childhood “obesity peaked at 18% to 19% among both boys at girls.” It was “slightly lower than this peak in the last few years, with little change”. In 2012, childhood obesity rates were 14% for both boys and girls.
The UK government’s Family Food Report 2013 found “energy intake from household food across all households was 3.0 per cent lower in 2012 than in 2007”. The percentage of energy that comes from non-milk extrinsic sugars has subsided irregularly since 2003. Moreover, sugar calories do not require specific attention. A 2013 meta-analysis for the British Medical Journal concluded “isoenergetic replacement of sugars with other carbohydrates did not result in any change in body weight”.
Despite Action on Sugar’s desire to “disassociate physical activity with obesity”, the HSIC report also cites previous UK research that found “not being physically active” was a positive risk factor for obesity. A 2014 American Journal of Medicine study found that – whilst calorific intake “did not change significantly” between 1988 and 2010 – physical inactivity dramatically rose. The study concludes “our results lend support to the emphasis on physical activity”.
Whilst Action on Sugar seeks to establish soft drinks speakeasies through greater taxation and regulation of sugar, their stance does not rest upon scientific consensus.