UN Official: Better to Put Down the Fork and Pick Up a Cigarette

Food Tax Cigarette

According to an investigator with the United Nations, unhealthy diets pose a greater risk to global health than cigarettes and governments should move fast to tax harmful food products.

Olivier de Schutter, special rapporteur on right to food, told the World Health Organization’s annual summit that governments should launch negotiations on a global pact to tackle the obesity epidemic.

“Unhealthy diets are now a greater threat to global health than tobacco. Just as the world came together to regulate the risks of tobacco, a bold framework convention on adequate diets must now be agreed,” he said.

Two years ago, in another report to the rights council, de Schutter called for similar action, encouraging governments to tax unhealthy products, regulate fats and sugars, crack down on advertising for junk food, and rethink agricultural subsidies that make unhealthy food cheaper. But apparently nothing happened and people just kept eating.

“It has been two years since my report on nutrition and the right to food, and ten years since the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its Global Strategy on Diet Physical Activity and Health,” he said. “Yet obesity continues to advance—and diabetes, heart disease and other health complications along with it. The warning signs are not being heard.”

Will anything change this time around? Probably not, but Consumers International and the World Obesity Federation are on WHO’s side, calling for greater regulation of the food industry. The two organizations said governments around the world should impose compulsory rules for the food and drink industry, similar to tobacco regulations. These rules could include pictures on food packaging of damage caused by obesity (similar to those on cigarette packets), reducing the levels of salt, saturated fat and sugar in food, improving food served in hospitals and schools, imposing stricter advertising controls, and educating the public about healthy eating.

Apparently global deaths due to obesity and general fatness rose from 2.6 million in 2005 to 3.4 million in 2010. Still, are fatty foods really worse than cigarettes? Just think of that awful stale cigarette smell… then again, a 500lbs man with Taco Bell gas probably smells just as bad. Verdict: it’s a tie.

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