Friday, 5 July 2019

Unavailable at any price

Three weeks ago, as part of our day out in Uttoxeter, we were very kindly given a lift by Paul Mudge’s wife Jacquie to the outlying Plough. She wanted a soft drink, but not being a lover of artificial sweeteners, asked for one of the full-sugar varieties. However, the pub didn’t have anything available in this category, although it was eventually able to dig out some expensive premium drink.

The sugar tax has been in the news recently, and one fact that has emerged is that it has only raised one-third of the revenue that it was predicted to. This is due to a mixture of manufacturers reformulating their products and, as in this case, outlets simply ceasing to stock the full-sugar versions. It’s certainly not just confined to pubs – in Subway, all of their draught soft drinks are diet versions, while I was recently in a branch of Waitrose where only diet drinks were included in “meal deals”. Fortunately you can still get a full-sugar Pepsi with your burger in Wetherspoon’s.

Now, as someone with Type 2 diabetes, this is academic to me, but it still represents a significant denial of choice. Some people simply don’t like the taste of artificial sweeteners, while others are allergic to them, and there are also concerns that they may lead to long-term health problems, as we have found with replacing butter with various kinds of artificial spreads. Plus there is the fact that full-sugar drinks can be a life-saver for Type 1 diabetics experiencing a “hypo”.

It is one thing to seek to deter people from consuming certain products through higher taxation, although whether that in itself is proving effective is highly questionable. But it is something else entirely to simply, through a form of official arm-twisting, make those products completely unavailable. Surely adult consumers should be treated as informed, empowered people who have the right to make their own decisions about their diet. And, if price is an issue, why can’t retailers simply include smaller measures in all-inclusive deals, such as 375ml bottles rather than 500ml?

There’s a parallel with the schemes that, not content with imposing additional duty on higher strength beers and ciders, seek to remove them from the shelves entirely.


  1. Saw the tweet about this post. A couple of things to note:

    Depressingly 45% of the general population welcome more sin taxes on so-called unhealthy items - the only succour I can take from this stat is if it was previously higher & is declining...but I doubt it!
    Plainly, there are consequences - as you've mentioned - & they do not favour the drinker/shopper. They also serve as a wheeze for venues to charge more money. Why do have to buy Fentimans cola? 'cos government made us stop selling regular Coke - risible.
    Lastly, these types of taxes are just the absolute worst - they don't change behaviour as they're intended (people switch to higher calorie / sugar drinks, seek cheaper alternatives not reformulated), they're regressive, nannying & ineffective. All they're good for is transferring yet more money (in this case only a 1/3 of what was planned) from households to central govt.

    I could go on, but I'll sum it up by paraphrasing Loaded magazine from its heyday of the mid-90s "a bunch of arse".

  2. The Stafford Mudgie5 July 2019 at 19:23

    "Full-sugar drinks can be a life-saver for Type 1 diabetics experiencing a “hypo” - yes, and I well know that in moderation full-sugar drinks can be very beneficial to those suffering from low blood pressure. But 'the Health Lobby' won't be interested in minorities like that.

  3. Boris Johnson has called for a review of sin taxes. I'd vote for him.

    1. Let's face it, if you're taxing sin then Boris is going to be one of the worst hit.

    2. The Stafford Mudgie6 July 2019 at 09:33

      But he can afford it - if he doesn't avoid it !

    3. Take more than that - not even stopping HS2 - to make me vote for the bumbling oaf.

  4. Genuine question 'mudge. Would you apply the same argument - adults consumers being treated as informed, empowered people - to the sale of class A (and lower) drugs?

    The problem is the first adjective: just how informed is the average consumer?

  5. The average consumer is by now completely sceptical.
    Eggs are good for you. No they are not. Oh sorry, they are good for you. Red wine is bad for you. No it is good for you. Ehrr, no it's bad for you. Etc. etc..Butter, meat, carbs, salt, processed, on and on.
    All we are sure of is that if a pollie can get tax revenue out of anything while feeling virtuous it is a winner.
    If it employs more of his cronies in advising about these matters it a double win.


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