A senior medical officer in the U.K. thinks they should and has been subjected to intense backlash after suggesting the idea publicly.
Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, sparked fury after telling an audience at London’s Science Museum that she had “often wondered why aircraft don’t charge by total weight of the person and their luggage, as a throwaway remark, because it would seem to be quite a clever way of doing it.”
A spokesman for Davies insisted the remarks were meant as a joke and she was responding to a question from the audience. But people could be forgiven for thinking she was serious given her long-running support for more active policies to tackle obesity.
In 2014, she told members of Parliament:
We need to be both strong and prepared to regulate. I think that the science is going such that that we will find sugar is addictive. We may need to move to some sort of sugar tax, but I hope we don’t have to.
The policy that Davies allegedly joked about supporting has in fact already been introduced by one airline. Samoa Air operates a system by which a passenger’s weight, as well as their luggage, is used to calculate their fare.
Equality campaigners were quick to pounce on Davies’ remarks. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Lawrence Davies, of the law firm Equal Justice, said:
We should not provide services to only thin people or charge fat people more. Many overweight people are so not by choice or lifestyle. It requires understanding, not a big stick.
Davies’a comments came hot on the heels of remarks made by the controversial former apprentice and celebrity big brother contestant Katie Hopkins, who said she refuses to “speak to fat children.”
Despised by many for her divisive views, Hopkins lavished praise on Davies’ interventionist attitude. “She rescued me after a double shoulder dislocation. Now she’s signed up for a Fat Tax for Fat Flyers. Love her,” wrote Hopkins.
In the U.S., the idea of fat taxes is popular with the public health community as a way of tackling obesity. Soda has become a special target for campaigners and legislators. The only city in country to introduce a soda tax so far is Berkeley, Calif.
The law took effect in March and forced distributors to pay a one cent tax per ounce of soda. But Berkeley’s store owners have refused to play ball and have only passed on a fraction of the price increase to consumers.
This report, by Guy Bentley, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.