'Fat tax' supporters win

'Fat tax' supporters win

St Mark's research into a similar tactic tried in Denmark shows politics, not ineffectiveness, was the deciding factor in its removal

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St Mark's debater Ron Yip presents his arguments in favour of a tax on high-calorie foods and drinks
St Mark's debater Ron Yip presents his arguments in favour of a tax on high-calorie foods and drinks
Photo: Edmond So/SCMP

St Mark's School tasted victory over St Catherine School for Girls in the second round (Division Three) of the 15th Nesta-SCMP Debating Competition last Friday. The schools debated the motion that "The government should introduce a 'fat tax' on high-calorie restaurant foods and all sugary drinks".

St Mark's debaters - Dawn Yip Ching, Form One; Yoshida Yuuki, Form One; and Ron Yip Long, Form Two - supported the motion. St Catherine's Cindy Lee Yuk-man, Michelle Lai Wing-man and Yennie Lee Ching-yan, all Form Two students, opposed it.

The debate was adjudicated by Ludwig Pang, a biology and liberal studies teacher from St Paul's Secondary School.

The affirmative side pointed out that Hong Kong is facing an increasingly serious obesity problem among its children, so the introduction of a fat tax should help ease the problem. They cited the case of Denmark, the only country to have introduced a fat tax so far, while presenting their arguments. They said the tax was an effective tactic in reducing obesity because people had cut down the consumption of high-fat, high-sugar foods.

In response, St Catherine said Denmark later abolished the fat tax. This showed that it wasn't an effective solution for getting people to eat healthier foods, they said.

St Mark's rebutted, saying that the tax was removed because of strong opposition from farmers. So the decision was more of a political one rather than a statement about the tax's effectiveness to lower the consumption of high-calorie food.

The opposition also argued it would be unfair to introduce a fat tax while alcohol, which is also considered harmful to the body, is left out. They also raised concerns over the underprivileged not having enough food because of the fat tax. After all, fast food is a cheap option for the less fortunate. St Catherine feared that having a fat tax would lead to hunger among poor people in Hong Kong.

Pang praised both sides for their in-depth research and rebuttals, but gave the edge to St Mark's. "The points put up by debaters from St Mark's were well supported by facts and figures. They also had a better delivery, more eye contact with the audience and less reading from the notecards," he said.

Pang also said both sides had provided a lot of impressive rebuttals, but they could improve their presentation. "The debaters like to start their speech by saying that they are going to give rebuttals," he said. "I think a better way to do it is to integrate rebuttals into the speech instead of just saying you are going to give a rebuttal."

The contest is sponsored by the Native English-Speaking Teachers' Association and the South China Morning Post.


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