Why not encourage healthy eating through incentives?

General practitioner Ian Lake asks an important question: Can industry be left to improve population health? In his letter, he argues that tax incentives are easier and more likely to be successful.

He explains that ‘governments could draw up a list of healthy foods and provide tax breaks to supermarkets if they could show that they had sold a high enough percentage of these healthy foods,’ i.e. have supermarkets use creative marketing and advertising strategies to promote healthy lifestyles. Lake references D. Yach who states that ‘market led solutions, when combined with public policies, make healthy choices the default option’. Isn’t it a better option to spend tax money on prevention rather than treating people who fall ill due to bad eating habits?

According to Lake, ‘the legislative approach through mostly punitive taxation is… doomed to fail,’ as seen in the abolition of the Danish fat tax. ‘Diet and lifestyle are too complex to [be handled] in this way,’ says Lake.

His letter in the British Medical Journal can be read here.

UK Regulations, What others say: media, Advertising, British Medical Journal, Marketing, Tax incentives, United Kingdom