RICHARD ORD: Fat chance of NHS sugar tax working

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“Do you like hospital food?”

In my day, that phrase was a threat. The precursor to a fist fight.

These days, it’s one of the first questions on any NHS focus group survey. And in the future the answer is likely to be “Yes, but it’s very expensive isn’t it?”

The NHS this week declared war on obesity, though the planned introduction of a “sugar tax” in hospitals is misguided.

What are they going to do next? Water down the beer in the hospital canteen or only sell low tar fags on the wards instead of full strength?

If sugary food is unhealthy, surely the answer is simply to not sell it in hospitals rather than offer it at a premium rate. We’d fast kick up a stink if hospitals started selling whisky and cigars, even at inflated prices.

By proposing a 20% tax on all sugary drinks and food in NHS cafes, health chiefs are trying to price the poor out of an early death. The rich? Well, they can gorge themselves to an early grave, and the NHS will pocket the profits.

With two sugar-hoovering boys to bring up, aged 11 and 15, all sweets and biscuits in our house are either kept up a height or hidden.

Originally this was to keep them out of reach. Now it’s to force our two to burn off the excess calories trying to find them.

Isaac, 11, thinks nothing of scrambling up onto the kitchen bench and hoisting himself up into the top cupboard to scavenge a Bourbon or six. As he gets older, we’ll start putting all sweet drinks and biscuits in ever more difficult-to-reach places.

I’m thinking of chaining the biscuit tin to the chimney and dangling coke cans from the guttering. Getting our boys to scale the side of the house to get their mitts on a Yorkie bar ought to help them shed the pounds.

Of course, the answer would be to not have chocolate or sweet treats in the house. But then there’s not an obesity problem in our house.

Unlike in the community where new figures reveal the nation in the grip of an obesity crisis. Personally, I think there aren’t enough thin role models. Fashion houses and magazines need to feature much thinner models on the catwalks. Surely that’d encourage youngsters to forgo the Mars bar and stay trim. It may not work, but surely it’s worth a try. I’ll drop Stella McCartney a line, and see if she’ll run with it.

My other suggestions are “Shout You Weight” scales. The work like Speak Your Weight weighing machines but they bellow your weight to all and sundry (ideally over a Tannoy system) to shame people into going on a diet.

The “sugar tax” is a waste of time. Hospital cafes need to take a leaf out of the pub trade. Just as landlords reserve the right to refuse to serve beer to a customer who is drunk, then so NHS staff should reserve the right to refuse to serve chocolate bars to customers they think are fat. It should help tackle obesity and, like the expression “Do you like hospital food?” spark more fist fights, which are, in themselves, great calorie burners!