Should the fat be taxed?

London: UK TV food critic, Giles Coren, is campaigning for a tax on the fat. In a TV programme – Tax the Fat – being broadcast on More4 today, he argues that Britain is dying of fat.

He says: “And the bill is not just a few pounds here and there to repair a broken park bench or the odd public loo seat. Last year, treatment of obesityrelated illnesses, including Type 2 diabetes and knee and hip operations, cost the National Health Service — wait for it — £1 billion. Another £2.5 billion was lost to the economy on account of premature death, sick pay and incapacity benefits related to obesity.

“Extra transport costs incurred as a result of our increasing weight ran to £250 million because the fatter we grow, the fewer people can fit on any given bus or train. (By 2020, when a third of Britons will be clinically obese, 2,500 extra buses will have to be built, at a cost of £100,000 per bus, to cart our bulkier frames around.)

There are 900 people in Britain so fat that they can do, almost literally, nothing at all. These super-whoppers cost the country £8million just on their own. “

He says the total cost of supporting the obese, some £4 billion comes from the taxes paid by the thin and like smokers and people who consume alcohol, they should also be taxed. They are fat, he says, because they lack willpower.

“Smokers are expected to pay vast amounts in tax to fund their habit. Boozers are taxed in the same way; gamblers, too. And I think it’s high time the obese were made to stump up as well. The time has come to tax the fat.”

In the TV documentary he reveals some obesity facts: two thirds of the adult population of Britain is overweight with a Body Mass Index of more than 25 or obese with a BMI of more than 30; 10% of premature deaths are obesity related and that by 2012 obesity will overtake smoking as the biggest preventable killer.

The only solution is to tax fat, he argues – that is everyone with a BMI over 36, for example. This is the size of the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. This would mean paying and extra £300 a year in tax if you already paid £5,000.

A fat tax would raise money to pay for the UK’s economic fat burden and act as a deterrent.

Coren has taken his fat tax proposal to the heart of Government and even put it to John Prescott himself who reponded, as one would expect, less than enthusiastically.