LETTER: Tax could curb obesity

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With warnings that a third of the population will be obese by 2030, the British Medical Association is right to recommend a 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened drinks to subsidise the sale of fruit and vegetables, and help tackle the increasing level of obesity and diet-related health problems across the UK.

As a GP, I see a growing number of over-weight patients with diet-related illnesses.

I am increasingly concerned about the impact of poor diet, which is responsible for up to 70,000 UK deaths and £6bn of costs to the NHS every year.

While sugar-sweetened drinks are very high in calories, they are of limited nutritional value.

There is increasing concern about how they contribute towards conditions like diabetes.

We know from experiences in other countries that taxation on unhealthy food and drinks can improve health outcomes.

The strongest evidence of effectiveness is for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

If a tax of at least 20 per cent is introduced, it could reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by around 180,000 people and reduce the harm of diet-related illness.

Dr Brian Balmer,

BMA representative,

BMA House,

Tavistock Square,

London.

Lacking proof

Recent media coverage regarding schizophrenia has attempted to link it to smoking.

Researchers believe tobacco as well as cannabis could play a part in causing schizophrenia.

In my opinion, it is just another example of some psychiatrists trying to understand what is going on when the real problem surrounding schizophrenia, as I see it, is the complete absence of objective proof that it exists as a physical brain abnormality.

There can be no doubt that people do experience problems and upsets in life that may result in mental troubles, sometimes very serious.

To represent that these troubles are caused by incurable “brain diseases” that can only be alleviated with drugs is, in my view, harmful and potentially deadly.

Neuroleptic (nerve-seizing) drugs, used to treat schizophrenia, cause damage to the body’s nervous system and result in permanent impairment, even death.

There is abundant evidence that real physical illness, with real pathology, can seriously affect an individual’s mental state and behaviour. Yet psychiatry completely ignores this weight of scientific evidence.

What is lacking, as with all psychiatric theory, is scientific proof.

Brian Daniels,

National spokesperson,

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (United Kingdom),

East Grinstead.