Sugar taxes aren’t about punishment—they nudge people toward less sugary alternatives.
Growing up, I saw firsthand the impact a refined sugar tax would have had on my nutritional choices. Obese and at risk of becoming a Type 2 diabetic, I spent most of my allowance on candy, binging for days.
If the government placed taxes on sugary foods when I was younger, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it with the daily pocket money I got from my parents.
Taxing unhealthy foods would help people with less disposable income go for healthier alternatives based on cheaper prices. It’d pressure them to consume less sugary products and, in the long run, improve their understanding of nutrition and healthy eating.
In a country facing high percentages of obesity and diabetes, this could go a long way toward enhancing public health.
With sugar taxes, health care costs would be lower and people would live healthier, longer lives. The government could also funnel portions of the tax toward marketing for national health organizations like Diabetes Canada.
Most refined sugar tax discussions are focused on changing consumers’ choices from product to product—but this has consequences.
A consumer could easily switch from pop to juice, which might sound healthier, but both products generally have around the same amount of sugar per serving. Taxing sugar’s volume in products rather than the products themselves is the most effective solution to excessive consumption of sweet foods.
Consumers aren’t alone in seeing the positive effects of a refined sugar tax. Taxing sugar volume would encourage food and beverage companies to reduce the amount of sugar in their products to keep them affordable.
Queen’s is no exception to rampant sugar consumption, and the school can play a part in reducing its intake even without a sugar tax.
While the university stopped selling water bottles in 2012 to reduce campus waste, they still sell bottled juices and sodas. Thirsty students without reusable water bottles are forced to purchase sugary drinks from on-campus vendors.
We’re not only still using plastic bottles—we’re supporting the continued consumption of refined sugars.
Our campus can support student health by making low-sugar alternatives available for those who can’t or shouldn’t consume high levels of sugar. That said, greater change must come from the top down: through the federal government.
While it’s true not every solution should come from politicians, it’s in their best interest to get involved.
Public health is a basic responsibility of the Canadian government. Its failure to mitigate obesity and diabetes through limiting refined sugar consumption results in nothing but a public health crisis.
Nour is The Journal’s Graphics Editor. She’s a fifth-year Philosophy and Political Studies student.
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