Article by Paul Goodman
Alcohol can brighten up a man’s evening but it can also destroy his life, sometimes literally, and devastate the life of his family. Hence beer duty and cider duty and wine duty and spirit duty, all set to strength. So it is that beer with a strength between 1.2 per cent and 1.8 per cent is taxed at 8.1p per litre and that with a strength of 7.5 per cent is taxed at more than 23.8p per litre – and so on. Taxation is the nudge principle made flesh, or can be.
That setting a tax too high can encourage a black market – see cigarette duties – or that government has other instruments to hand than taxation, such as advertising or regulation, is beside the point: namely, that this is a sensible way to use the tax system, which is required to raise the revenues to fund the public services which all of us other than those lost in the libertarian void acknowledge we need.
It follows that there is no reason in principle not to target the consumption of sugar with a specific tax – since sugar, like alcohol, can be bad for your health.
The author goes on to express some reservations about such a tax. Personally, I am in favour of a sugar tax. I find it appalling that it is cheaper to buy a can of sugary soda than to buy a bottle of water. The massive public health costs of sugar needs to be addressed.