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Fat tax may save thousands of lives

More than 3,000 deaths a year could be prevented if a "fat tax" is imposed on unhealthy foods, according to experts.

In 2004, Tony Blair rejected calls for such a tax, saying it would make Britain too much like a "nanny state".

But a new study, led by Dr Oliver Mytton at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham and published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggests such a scheme may save lives.

Researchers tested three different economic models, and found that introducing a tax on a wide range of products with the aim of cutting fat, salt and sugar intake was the most effective.

They discovered that this method could prevent up to 3,200 deaths from heart disease and stroke every year, and tackle the problem of spiralling obesity rates.

Food expenditure would go up by 4.6%, or 67p per week per person, equating to an annual cost of around £2bn across the UK.

Commenting on the study, Tim Marsh, associate director of the National Heart Forum, said: "The UK is facing a crisis in diet-related illness, including obesity, caused by overconsumption of foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

"There is no single solution, and we need to carefully explore the potential of all possible strategies to tackle the issue.

"We should pay special attention to any intervention, such as food taxation, which could - if carefully applied - be a proportionate response to the size of the problem and the impact of poor diet on our future health and prosperity."

National Heart Forum

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

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Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"Taxing alcohol and tobacco hasn't made a huge differance, so why should a "fat tax" alter people's eating habits" - Kate, Essex

"Not at all, yet another ridiculous idea to pay more money in tax. It will not stop people buying" - Name and address supplied

"I think that those with problems with their weight (including myself) should be responsible for looking after themselves. Those with a poor diet would continue to feed their habits as it is more an addiction than recklessness. This tax would actually affect those that genuinely require a high calorie diet. My son has Cystic Fibrosis and these children require a high calorie diet, high in fat and salt. This tax would be a disaster for us and this issue needs to be weighed up against the fact that people should be educated to be responsible for their own health and diet from an early age. I am sure there are other medical conditions that require a high calorie diet and there also people who have problem keeping weight on for no medical reason. This proposal would give the Governement just another excuse to extract money from those who already find that everything they use/need is taxed and struggle to get by in their daily life. Freedom of Choice is slowly being edged away" - Kelly Bol, Ilford