There wasn't much chance that the recent proposal for a soft drinks sugar tax made by the Grattan Institute wouldn't be drawn into the cultural class war (actually proxy war) that has come to occupy centre stage. Five years ago, it might have got through nearly unnoticed. Now it has raised an army against it, one with much greater firepower than hitherto, and in an era when people are far less willing to simply accept such social policy. At the same time, many of the arguments made against are asinine liberalism. The debate has one reaching for the dependable old quote by Winston Churchill, at the time of the 1926 miners' strike: "I thought I had never met anyone so stupid as the coal mine union leaders, until I met the coal mine owners."*
The arguments in favour of such a tax are simple enough. Higher carbohydrate and sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity, and obesity has been rising for many years in many societies (though in some it now appears to have plateaued). Soft drinks have a huge amount of sugar in them, whose volume is disguised by the delivery system; it goes down easier and faster than a chocolate bar. Sugar is addictive to many, an entity, like heroin, that sells the addicted consumer to the product. We are biologically oriented to seek such energy packages in the naturally given realm of scarcity; when the realm of cheap food arrives, we find that a section of the population lacks an inherent off switch that would keep their weight at a healthy set point. That number can be increased by addicting the young to the sugar rush, the rapid rise and fall of blood sugar levels that create perpetual craving cycles, independent of deeper hunger.