The latest calls for a tax on sugar are a lost cause

Ordering manufacturers to reduce sugar content is hopeless, they will find other ways to keep us addicted

Share

The drugs that cause us the most harm and cost the NHS millions are all highly addictive. They are sugar, salt, alcohol and tobacco. Not cannabis – which has just gone on sale legally in Colorado, without the world grinding to a halt or the population of Aspen suddenly turning green and growing extra arms and legs.

Doctors are right to complain that the Government seems extremely reluctant to interfere with our "human right" to eat, drink and smoke ourselves to an early grave, while spending money on ineffective health campaigns designed to get us exercising and eating fruit and veg. Half of us are overweight, in spite of diet books, gym memberships and exercise DVDs. Major supermarkets might have had a disappointing Christmas – but the actual amount of food and drink we bought was the same as usual, we've just become more savvy in selecting where and how we purchase it. Some experts think that we are in the grip of "food addiction", because so much of what we eat is laden with stuff to enhance the taste and make us want more. This heightened sense of pleasure is achieved with chemicals and flavour enhancers and some would say that they are just as harmful, if consumed in excess, as strong booze and class-A drugs.

How different my generation are compared with my parents'. We're about a third bulkier, for starters. Forget all that crap about baby boomers being self-centred, the real difference is that we lack the discipline and restraint of those who endured the last war and decades of deprivation. Every step of the way, we have opted for excess and having a good time, and why not? Subsequent generations (the under-sixties) have no concept of "going without" and, to teenagers, the idea of no phone or no chips is akin to losing a limb. It's not surprising that so many of us have ended up flabby and unfit, slouched on our sofas, gorging on buckets of sugary snacks while sniggering at shows about benefit scroungers – the new reality "entertainment".

The latest calls for a tax on sugar are a lost cause. Taxing booze and fags has had limited impact. Ordering manufacturers to reduce sugar content is hopeless, they will find other ways to keep us addicted. Surely, the best way to deal with our national sugar addiction is to learn a lesson from the last war and return to rationing. I can see nothing wrong in being issued with coupons for sugar. All foods could have a sugar rating to be translated into a coupon value at the point of purchase. And why not issue fag coupons to smokers while you're about it? To qualify, they would have to agree to regular health checks and produce a certificate to say they are fit to smoke. OK, this impinges on our freedom, but it places the onus on consumers, not producers, who will always maximise profits and never have our interests at heart. We can learn a lot from a previous age of austerity. Ration books – bring them on!

Let's change the architecture of learning for children

The other week, Jamie Oliver was praising a school in Los Angeles that had asked his daughter about her interests and then used them as a starting point in its teaching. Now, one of Michael Gove's advisers, Ian Livingstone – the man behind Tomb Raider and president of the gaming company Eidos) – is advocating learning through play rather than fact-based memory tests, or, in other words, exams. Mr Livingstone argues that kids can look up facts they need on the internet. He says, "You don't need to cram your own hard drive, your brain, with all this data that you could access at the click of a mouse."

He is right about a lot of subjects. When I studied architecture, we spent hours on technical stuff, most of which is now farmed out to experts. You don't imagine Frank Gehry or Norman Foster do their own structural calculations? Children are highly adaptable: they need to learn to interact with each other, and build on their innate sense of curiosity, but this is drowned out by the need to memorise useless facts. In the future, teamwork and problem solving is going to be vital. As we move to a leisure-based economy, our children need people skills above all else, which is why they suffer now in the jobs market.

But Mr Livingstone's war on facts may not play well when the Department for Education has to consider his application to open a new school in west London next year.

Why don't awards go to the right people?

The awards season is here again, starting with the announcement of the Bafta shortlist. Most of these films will not have been seen by the British public, just the 6,000 or so members of the British Academy, and it is hard to dredge up enthusiasm for something you have only glimpsed via a carefully edited trailer on television. The other night, I enjoyed Bruce Dern turning in a fabulous performance as a forgetful alcoholic old dad, in Alexander Payne's engaging portrait of working-class middle America, Nebraska. But who is to say that Dern is better (he is nominated as a leading actor) than Will Forte, who plays his son (and has equal screen time), and the wonderful June Squibb, who gets all the best lines and the biggest laughs as his long-suffering wife, Kate? Awards never go to the right people, do they? Nebraska is a quiet film, reminding me of the best of John Cassavetes' work.

Bedazzled on a rainy day

On a rainy dark afternoon last week, the Museum of London was packed with visitors, engrossed in a display of the most dazzling jewellery imaginable. More than 100 years ago, workmen in the City of London discovered a hidden stash of priceless Elizabethan and Jacobean gems, which were subsequently split between several museums, although some pieces disappeared and were sold. Nobody has ever discovered whether the Cheapside hoard (as it became known) had been stolen or who owned the pieces.

Now, the jewellery has been gathered together for the first time – very timely, as with the stage version of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies receiving rave reviews at Stratford, we may need reminding that Tudor is not the only era worth knowing. The level of intricate workmanship is dazzling and the provenance of the stones is extraordinary: from South America to Sri Lanka.

We know modern London is a city where new fortunes are flaunted and the sales of luxury goods are booming but the billionaires and oligarchs of today seem a pretty tame group of consumers compared with the aristocrats of Elizabethan England, when the men wore jewelled earrings and brooches, yards of gold and enamelled chains and crucifixes. Some pieces, such as a gold brooch in the form of a lizard set with emeralds, and a watch set in a single lump of emerald seem utterly contemporary.

twitter.com/@The_Real_JSP

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

 

Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
Shazam! Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

Shazam: Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch