From Treat to Threat: Scottish Chocolate Tax Defeated

| By two votes, the British Medical Association (BMA) has rejected a motion calling for a sin tax on chocolate in the United Kingdom. Dr. David Walker, of Lanarkshire, Scotland, says the treat poses at least as much a threat to health as alcohol does in the U.K., and should be taxed accordingly. “Obesity is a mushrooming problem. We are heading the same way as the United States,” he told the BBC. “I see chocolate as a major player in this.”

But after this week’s vote, the chocolate tax looks about as unlikely as the sex tax we proposed a while back. Sweet. [%comments]

Fred T.

If the goal is to curb obesity, shouldn't the good doctor suggest a tax on all food items based on things like saturated and trans fat content and not singling out chocolate?

After all, the taxes on alcohol apply to all alcohol, not just one in particular, like vodka.

Steven Surowiec

This is no different then the US imposing bans on things like Trans Fat. In the long run it will do absolutely nothing to curb obesity. You want to stop obesity? Promote good health and and get all of Monsanto's chemicals out of our food.


The problem with all this is that the lipid hypotheis is not proven. It makes no sense to have a "fat tax" since in the absence of carbohydrate, fat cannot be readily stored. The latest studies are showing that Ancel Keys' hypothesis was bunk.


Speaking as a morbidly obese person, here's what will help me get thinner:

1. Make fruits and vegetable CHEAP - more incentive to buy. Making bad stuff more expensive doesn't make it easier for me to afford the GOOD stuff... DUH.

2. Health insurance should cover personal, regular counseling. Once a month for 15 mins with a dietician will go a long way and is way cheaper than diabetes management supplies.

3. Health Insurance should also cover exercise options and we should be required to sign up for one to keep coverage. When I could no longer afford the YMCA, and despite having an exercise machine at home, 20 of the 33 lbs I've lost have crept back up on me. Again, seems cheaper to pay for this than to pay for long term disease management.

If I had a problem with Alcohol, I'd get 30 days inpatient treatment, ongoing support, etc. Because my drug of choice is food, I'm told to "just eat less, move more". Would you tell an alcoholic to "just drink less"? Get real.



Chocolate is known to have health benefits- this sounds like typical government project (just as ethanol gas) that sounds good in ideal but when thought through may even be harmful.

Nick Robinson

BMA = Barely Matters Anyway

I can't speak for anyone else here in the UK other than me, but I don't really think the opinion of the BMA matters very much. I feel that they are mostly known for NOT really acting in the interests of patients when doctors are found guilty of misconduct.

And as other comments have pointed out the links are unproven, the parallels with other conditions and their treatments inconsistent and better alternative approaches already exist.

And I can't remember, does Freakonomics the book deal with the whole Scottish deep-fried Mars Bars myth thing?

Michael Story

One of the more interesting ideas for healthcare policy in scotland is a proposed minimum price for alcoholic drinks. This would not be imposed by a tax, rather retailers would not be allowed by law to charge less than a certain amount per unit of alcohol. This would take the form of a government endorsed cartel with the aim of decreasing consumption of the cheapest alcohol by problem drinkers, of whom scotland has a great many, without resistance from the drinks, pub and restaurant trade, whose resistance has made tax increases difficult.

David Pearson

Did I hear anyone say "fresh vegetables?"


New York State is proposing an 18% "Obesity Tax" on sugar (but not diet) soft drinks which should garner about $450 million in tax revenues. This sort of approach should be continued with a progressively increasing tax encouraging consumers to substitute diet for sugar soft drinks.

New York City also has a program that puts 1,500 fruit and vegetable street vendors in poor neighborhoods where these items are generally not available in food stores.


Those rascally Scots are probably just trying to get Walker's Shortbread biscuits to move up past Cadbury's chocolates as the go-to snack in the U.K. Since both are delicious, the consumer wins either way.


Well it would seem to be great news that the state attempted to take matters into their own hands by increasing the cost of unhealthy/luxurious food and items. But what about lowering tax (or subsidizing) basic food, healthy food, organic vegetable and fruits. If the government was really "concerned about helping people eat healthier they would promote the good stuff by giving them tax breaks with this method.

Otherwise what they attempted was just an excuse to
fatten the state coffers whilst the consumers have nothing to do but comply.


Byron Walker

Most would gladly take a a few months off the end of their lives to have enjoyed chocolate regularly during their lives. Of course, there is the separate issue of whether chocolate is a root cause of obesity. More accurately, excess calories through fat and sugar is a matter for focus. But I bet far more sugar is consumed per capita through prepared foods like ketshup than that of chocolate. Or most clearly, if the public decides that sugar consumption is to be curtailed, start where it matters, tax sodas. BTW, in the US domestic sugar production is a subsidized.

Blank Xavier

What business is it of any doctor or indeed of *anyone* else what I do, say, eat, drink or think?

If I want to eat chocolate and I know what it will do to me and I *choose* to do so, natch! there it is. It's FREEDOM.

The reason it's an issue in the UK is because the State runs medical care so you are "taking" from everyone else to "pay" the medical bills for your choice.

Since the State doesn't allow you to opt out of nationalised health care, that argument is completely bogus.


i'm with RZ- the "doctor" probably was bribed by the lollipop industry

Jonathan Katz

It is not the cocoa that causes obesity, it is the added fat and sugar. A tablespoon of cocoa powder has only 20 calories.


Hot chocolate: Add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a few drops of vanilla extract to a cup of hot water.

Chocolate syrup dessert: Take 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, and add just enough olive oil to moisten it, stirring with a spoon. Eat straight, or use as a dip for celery sticks, carrot sticks, zuccini sticks, etc.

Sandra Winters

"Jenn" has at least part of this right, although I certainly don't agree with all her statement. (Neither obesity due soley to overeating, nor alcoholism, are "conditions" or "diseases" that need "treatment" at the expense of the taxpayer or government. They are sinful behavior that needs to be repented of and stopped. I know that comment will garner some hatred, but lack of self-control is a sin according to God's Word. The proper avenue for help with such conditions is a Biblical church and the Bible itself.) However, government efforts would be much better directed at finding ways to lower the price of healthful food, rather than taxing unhealthful foods. Studies in US schools have shown that when the cost of healthy snacks in a snack food machine were lowered to match the cost of junk food in the snack machine next to it, the healthy food snack machine saw a huge increase in sales, while the junk food machine saw a significant drop.

This is certainly not the whole problem. But when a lower-middle class to lower class income family simply cannot afford fresh fruits, vegetables and meat, this is NOT their fault.