Sensationalist headlines around Jamie Oliver calling for a sugar tax are not helpful for the public health debate, as it makes the situation seem far too simplistic, when life never is. In the 1970s and 80s the health message was that fat was bad and the people should move their eating habits in the direction of carbohydrates. This message was successful and has been instrumental in the western world's addiction to sugar: our diets are too carb high.
We must learn from the impact of this single message approach of the past and apply it to how we act now. History will repeat itself if we're not careful. This time round we could push the "sugar is bad" message and watch the consumption of drinks with sugar be replaced with drinks with aspartame, as is already happening. Research shows that aspartame has the same effect on the body's insulin production as sugar. Therefore the cases and costs of type 2 diabetes will continue to rise. Again we successfully tackle problem A, whilst creating problem B.
The other consideration is a much wider one: we live in an economy based on getting most for least. The discounters control the retail sector. They keep prices low and as a result demand the lowest costs from their suppliers. Manufacturers then have no option but to look at cheap foodstuffs. People demand lots of flavour but won't pay for it, hence pouring in the salt, sugar and other unhealthy additives. Worse still, factory farming and over farming has become rife. To attempt to solve this conundrum with a tax on sugar is like trying to lift a manhole cover with a toothpick.
I am hugely concerned about "nanny statism", the government legislating in this area when what we need is responsible behaviour on all sides. It's important to understand the impacts of the outputs of the advertising industry but to imagine that removing the Coco-Pops Monkey will solve all our dietary ills is far too simplistic. We need a broader collaborative approach to this.
When I was younger Madonna and Michael Jackson partnered with Pepsi. My heroes were telling me to drink this sugary drink, however my parents got in the way. A drink like that was a treat, not part of the daily routine. We need advertisers and parents to look at the health debate together and manage what our children consume.
There is also a commercial reality to this situation. Have you noticed the drop in homegrown children's TV programmes apart from those produced by the BBC? Since changes in legislation on advertising certain products during the daytime schedule, commercial TV production of kids programmes has plummeted. How much better is it that the ads for food and drinks have been replaced by those for loans and Foxy Bingo?
We have to get away from another overly simplistic, nanny state agenda. Ideally, like everyone, I'd like to see problems solved in one or two simple steps, but that isn't realistic. We have to be grown-up and fully informed to create long-term and meaningful change. We need to talk about ingredients, manufacturing processes, labelling, the desire for the cheap and discounted, advertising and parenting. We do not need another five-word headline that pushes for a simple action that will ultimately change nothing or, worse, deliver another problem.