A better solution can be found in the field of "commitment devices"by David Fell / February 23, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Duel: should we have a sugar tax?
In common, I suspect, with most Prospect readers, I don’t think about tax when I shop for groceries. At no point in the supermarket do I say to myself: oh, yes, these potato crisps are subject to VAT, but those beetroot crisps are not. At the checkout, I don’t ponder the tax distinction between flapjacks and cereal bars, or smoothies and juice, or ice cream and frozen yoghurt, although these distinctions affect the amount of money they cost. And, when I leave the shop with a couple of bottles of wine, I don’t reflect that the liquid inside is subject both to VAT and excise duty and that most of the price I paid was tax.
If I did pause to think, would I choose differently? Research by behavioural economists such as Daniel Kahneman shows that we struggle when faced with too many choices and are easily fooled into paying attention to one thing rather than another. Those responsible for selling me groceries have been managing my attention with increasing sophistication for many years. Since Edward Bernays, a nephew of Freud, invented modern marketing we have been guided towards some choices rather than others. And the food industry has been guiding us towards choices with two common features: they tend to have the highest profit margin; and they tend to make us fat.
There are other reasons why westerners are getting fatter, of course, such as our sedentary lifestyles. But the obesity crisis and its associated costs are inextricably linked to our intake of calories, and especially to the refined and processed additions to our food that make it so convenient, cheap and enticing. It is easy to get from here to the case for a sugar tax: if food and drink containing excessive amounts of sugar is made more expensive then we will buy…