Thursday 2 February 2012

Gimmie some sugar

Ah, those nutty public health folks. Is it plausible that sugar is bad for your health and is one of the reasons for increased diabetes rates? Sure. But that sure isn't sufficient basis for this:
Sugar is so toxic it should be controlled like alcohol, according to new report that goes so far as to suggest setting an age limit of 17 years to buy soda pop.

It points to sugar as a culprit behind many of the world's major killers — heart disease, cancer and diabetes — that are now a greater health burden than infectious disease.

A little sugar "is not a problem, but a lot kills — slowly," says the report to be published Thursday in Nature, a top research journal.
And Count Chocula will be subject to plain packaging legislation? You think I'm kidding...
"We recognize that societal intervention to reduce the supply and demand for sugar faces an uphill political battle against a powerful sugar lobby," the researchers say, "and will require active engagement from all stakeholders." But such "tectonic shifts" in policy are possible, they say, pointing to bans on public smoking, limits on alcohol sales and condom dispensers in public washrooms. "It's time to turn our attention to sugar."
Ah yes. The powerful sugar lobby. They are indeed responsible for many real ills: sugar tariffs and subsidies in the US. But the public health guys, as usual, completely discount an alternative explanation for why people might oppose sugar regulation: that we enjoy eating it.

How long until some dodgy outfit comes up with a Cost of Sugar to Society study that puts together a table of aetiological attributable fractions for the burden of various diseases due to sugar consumption, tallies the costs to the public health system of sugar-related illness (80% of total dentistry expenditures, 50% of diabetes, etc...), adds to that all of the subjective intangible costs experienced by those incurring downside consequences from eating sugar (and all of the costs of growing "harmfully-consumed" sugar), assumes zero private enjoyment from eating tasty sugary snacks, and publishes a massive social cost figure for sugar use that will help fuel demand for sugar regulation?

HT: @JoelWood

Update: Here's Barbara Kay in the National Post on sugar taxes:
Taxes are justified as a deterrent for any substance we know to be harmful in quantities, because we all pay for the health care of people who are negligent of their health in the over-consumption of stuff they know is bad for them.
There is no logical end to that argument.


  1. General Mills could use this picture as background for the Count Chocula box, together with an "eating this cereal may induce amputation" disclaimer.

  2. From my cold dead molars!!!!

  3. The anti-smoking analogy is being drawn by others, too.

    1. There is no logical end to the slope as every decision we make has some effect on others via the public health system: everything affects our risk of imposing costs. Here's Barbara Kay in the National Post: the costs of sugar on others through the public health system is sufficient reason for taxes.

      Privatize health, give poor people money, and mandate minimal health insurance purchase. Or ignore pecuniary effects running through the tax system. I lean to the latter.