If We’re Going To Get A Sugar Tax, Can We Get More Women Active, Please?

Women are considerably less active than men, yet we’re also less likely to be overweight or obese…

If We're Going To Get A Sugar Tax, Can We Get More Women Active, Please?

by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

Jamie Oliver pleaded with David Cameron yesterday to ‘be brave’ and push through a sugar tax as part of a greater scheme to combat the UK’s obesity crisis. He made the comments at a select committee hearing – where a subsection of the government listen in to what experts have to say on various matters – despite ministers previously saying they wouldn’t be introducing the tax.

Speaking emotionally, he handed out various bottles of soft drinks along with hand-made labels to show the amount of sugar in each, before saying they are the ‘single largest source of sugar in our children and teenager’s lives’, reports the* BBC*.

He added that we need to ‘work out who is running the country… is it the businesses that are profiting from ill-health in our children or is it us?’

As well as a sugar tax, which could, at 20%, raise the UK £1 billion a year that could be spent on schools and the NHS in the battle against obesity, he wants there to be a ban on junk food advertising before 9pm and more controls on drink and food adverts online.

Jamie leads by example, putting a voluntary sugar surcharge in 46 of his own restaurants, which has led to a 6-7% reduction in sugar consumption.

While ministers bicker with Public Health England over the public body’s refusal to release the results of a taxpayer-funded investigation into the dangers of sugar-rich diets and their links to obesity, we’re all for Jamie’s attempts.

As well as meeting with Cameron, he’s saying that businesses can’t just profiteer when there are people’s waistlines and teeth at stake. According to The Independent, he said: ‘I don’t want business being put over child care, over my dead body.’

Which brings us to our sticking point, because as much as ‘what about the kids?!’ is a get-out argument to appeal to the hearts of lawmakers, it’s not just children and teenagers who need a little helping hand in learning the perils of sugar – but women, too.

This isn’t because of women’s supposed role as potential mothers (leading, historically, and presently to all sorts of unnecessary pressures on a woman’s life and eating habits), or for the intimate premenstrual relationship between women and chocolate/carbs, but because across the UK, women aren’t as physically active as men.

According to Sport England, two million fewer women than men aged 14 to 40 take part in sport. This is largely due to stigma attached to women doing sport, such as stereotypes around sport being ‘manly’ and the catcalling that faces women who exercise.

So while the proportion of overweight or obese men literally outweighs that of overweight or obese women, the gap could be widened even more if women – in general, let’s not forget there are plenty of women who do exercise – were a bit more active.

Now, far from suggesting that we need to be nannied and coddled into putting down our box of sweets, with the obesity crisis costing the UK £47 billion a year, the government doesn’t only have a responsibility to our health as citizens, but to keep our prices down as taxpayers.

As fun as it is to have sugar-ridden corporations trading unbridled in the UK, if the overall problems they cause burden the country more than help, then why are they still allowed to? Smoking and alcohol face higher taxation because of the risk they present, and as well as restrictions on them resulting in less uptake among young people, they both bring the government oodles in revenue each year.

But as well as this tax, it’s easy to see how a little investment in getting women active – more of schemes like This Girl Can, gyms that are a bit more women-welcoming, public spaces given over to women’s sports as well as men’s – could really help. If not for what’s beneath our pockets, then at least for what’s inside them.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

How Much Sugar Is In The Alcohol You’re Drinking

How To Quit Sugar When You’re As Addicted To It As I Am

Coca Cola’s Been Trying To Convince You It’s Healthy All This Time

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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