My standard post-night out routine involves a visit to McDonald’s in St George’s Street for a sausage and egg meal with a full fat Coca-Cola.
“That will be £3.81,” the lady at the cash till said when I paid. Now, I’m sad enough to know that the meal should be £3.69.
Nevertheless, I paid up, didn’t raise it with the employee and instead checked the receipt.
And yep, there it was: a 12p sugar tax had been applied. Another member of staff told me that they had been charging the tax since Monday.
It’s not the amount of money I’ve been charged that I object to – 12p is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things.
What I’m concerned about is that this amounts to yet another attempt by government to control our lifestyles.
The Soft Drinks Industry Levy, as the sugar tax is properly called, applies to drinks that have sugar added in production, apart from sweet milk drinks, alcohol and fruit juices which are naturally sugary.
For drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml, but less than 8g, the levy is 18p per litre. For drinks with more than 8g of sugar per 100ml, the levy is 24p per litre.
The government reckons it could coin in £240 million per year, which it will then spend on school play equipment.
I’m constantly suspicious of giving government any more of my money than it already takes. The more it takes, the more it spends it badly.
And anyway if the country so badly needs extra play equipment, then shouldn’t it already be paying for it?
Nope, this is just a ruse cooked up to camouflage the tax’s real purpose: controlling our lifestyles by limiting the choices open to us.
The authorities want us to notice the effect of the tax and stop choosing the wrong drinks. Well, they want those on low incomes to stop choosing the wrong drinks. It is they, after all, who consume the most sugary drinks and it is they who will be hardest hit by the tax.
We are told this is necessary because there is an obesity “epidemic”, a strange choice of noun for something which is neither a disease nor transferable from one organism to another. This claim comes at a time when people are healthier and living longer than they ever have been.
But most importantly of all, the sugar tax will have little effect on those who are overweight. According to a 2014 study into our dietary habits, sugary drinks make up about 5% of the calorie intake of 11- to 18-year-olds and about 2.5 for adults.
Regardless of any of the statistics, the government has no place trying to dictate how we should lead our lives.
If I want a sugary cola once a week to help cope with the excesses of the night before, I should be able to have one without handing more of my limited funds to the state.