Dame Sally Davies is sadly ignorant about obesity

We rather reject the idea that the technocrats should be running society for us - on the grounds that we think we should be doing as we wish in our own society without being told to do as we must. Not a rigid rule but a general observation.

This all gets rather worse when those technocrats who would tell us what to do are hopelessly ignorant of the reality they’re trying to organise. This is sadly true of Dame Sally Davies:

Chocolate and crisps must be taxed and the money used to subsidise the cost of vegetables, the country’s top doctor has insisted, declaring herself the nation’s “chief nanny”.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, said that food companies’ voluntary efforts to cut sugar and salt were not sufficient. She called for laws to force them to make healthier products.

“The food industry is not doing enough,” Dame Sally said at the launch of her annual report. “We have a situation at the moment where people are benefiting from selling unhealthy food and they are not paying for the harm that is doing to people as individuals, to us as a society and the costs to the NHS.”

There are no costs to the NHS from obesity therefore there should be no tax to cover them and the prodnoses can leave our food alone to boot. We’ve been pointing this out for at least a decade now which is enough time for anyone to get the message. And we’d really hope that one who would manage the impact of food upon NHS costs would grasp the simplicity of the point:

Having us all slim, svelte, sober and pure of lung into our 90s would cost the NHS very much more money than the current level of topers, smokers and lardbuckets does.

There might well be very good reasons to advise people that the private costs of their behaviour, the years of life they will lose through their habits, might well not be worth it. But the public costs of their actions are the other way around from what is being assumed here.


The researchers found that from age 20 to 56, obese people racked up the most expensive health costs. But because both the smokers and the obese people died sooner than the healthy group, it cost less to treat them in the long run.

On average, healthy people lived 84 years. Smokers lived about 77 years and obese people lived about 80 years. Smokers and obese people tended to have more heart disease than the healthy people.

Cancer incidence, except for lung cancer, was the same in all three groups. Obese people had the most diabetes, and healthy people had the most strokes. Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on.

The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000.

It simply isn’t true that obesity has net costs to the NHS and therefore there’s absolutely no valid argument at all that taxes should be levied as if it does, or that some grand effort is needed to change our diets to alleviate those non-existent costs.

And really, Dame Sally should know this and it’s a wonder that she doesn’t.