I DON’T know about you, but I’m bewildered by the NHS decision to put a 20 per cent sugar tax on café food and drink at hospitals and health centres.
There’s something odd about it that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Oh, hang on a moment, did I say I couldn’t put my finger on it? What I meant to say what that I can indeed put my finger on it. The whole idea makes no sense at all and is completely, bat-bitingly mad.
Picture a scene, if you will. You are the NHS. You operate a hospital or health centre, the purpose of which is to relieve poorly people of as much of their poorliness as possible. Part of your task is to provide refreshments for all who find themselves within your walls, whether in-house or through the private sector.
Now imagine that somebody within your organisation has been tasked to come up with a list of beverages to be provided. The list presented to you includes fruit juices, coffee, tea, Bovril, milk – and some of the strongest and dodgiest drink known to humankind.
There is a selection of super-strength lagers, for example, and not even the kind sold at a fiver per small bottle in upmarket offies. No, the brands on the list are the sort you associate with people who sit in shop doorways screaming deranged abuse at passers-by, or else lying spark out on the pavement in a large puddle even if it hasn’t been raining.
Also on the list provided for sale in your hospital or health centre are some £1.98-per-litre sherry, plus vodka made from anti-freeze filtered through used cat litter in a lock-up garage by frightening men for whom life is cheaper than a bag of crisps.
Now then – on seeing these items, do you instantly reject them as potentially injurious to the lives of the very people you’re hoping to help? Alternatively, do you decide that it’s perfectly okay to flog them alongside the sarnies and slices of carrot cake, but only if customers pay a wee bit extra for them, as paying a bit extra will deter them from buying too much?
For that matter, if the list presented to you included a selection of ultra high-tar fags with extra formaldehyde, cyanide and arsenic, would you allow them to be stocked in your café so long as they were priced at a tenner a pack instead of eight quid?
My guess is that you answered both of these questions in the negative, so perhaps you’re as bewildered as I am.
Instead of making the public pay more for sugary foods, which are often overly sugary in order to mask the presence of substandard ingredients, it might make more sense to tax the enormous companies who produce unhealthy foods. Or possibly ban their wares from NHS canteens altogether.
Then maybe they’d have more of an incentive to produce healthy foods instead.
Of course, they might also have less of an incentive to offer politicians lucrative directorships and consultancies, but I’m sure that’s neither here nor there.