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Hospitality not responsible for the health of the nation

14 September 2011 by
Hospitality not responsible for the health of the nation

It seems there are few aspects of modern life in which politicians and medical professionals are content not to meddle. But the hospitality sector must experience more than its fair share of interference. In this week alone, we have seen three debates over how much the Government should regulate areas directly affecting the industry.

The first of these was sparked by chef Antony Worrall Thompson, a patron of smokers' group Forest, who called for a review of the smoking ban](http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2011/08/24/339921/antony-worrall-thompson-launches-petition-for-smoking-ban-review.htm). Say what you like about Worrall Thompson (and if you look at our [Table Talk forum](http://www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk/forums/smoking-ban-review-14985.aspx), many people do), he does raise a valid point. The ban has undeniably contributed to the increased closure rate of pubs over the past few years.

Few would argue for a repeal of the ban, and Caterer and Hotelkeeper is not among them, but it does demonstrate the rule of unintended consequences.

That is why proposals to introduce a [tax on "junk food"](http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2011/09/01/340075/39Fat-tax39-plans-under-fire.htm) should be considered with extreme caution. Reducing obesity is a laudable aim, but how should junk food be defined? What happens to indulgent restaurant and pub dishes, eaten only occasionally by diners who just want to forget the slavery of calorie counting for a day?

And what of Lib Dem plans to allow local councils to add a [surcharge to drinks in pubs and clubs](http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2011/08/30/340062/Lib-Dems-propose-drinks-surcharge-to-tackle-binge-drinking-policing-and.htm) to help pay for the policing and clean-up costs of binge drinking? No one likes unruly, drunken behaviour, but would the local supermarkets be subject to the same treatment? After all, we know that many drinkers "pre-load" on cheap off-licence booze long before they ever set foot in a pub.

Legislation, once introduced, can create unforeseen consequences and be extremely difficult to reverse. The industry should certainly offer choice to consumers, but it should not be responsible for the health of the nation.

By Neil Gerrard

E-mail your comments to Neil Gerrard here.

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