The Minister of Consumption, Alberto Garzón, (Logroño, 1985) has put betting houses and childhood obesity in his sights, so on Thursday he visited the Gasol Foundation in Barcelona, which carries out recognized studies to analyze the overweight in children and met with the mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, who announced a new limitation on gambling venues. Within the framework of this visit, he gave an interview to El Periódico, in which he insinuates that the VAT on feminine hygiene products has not been lowered because it has not gone ahead in the budget negotiation with the PSOE.
Studies agree that childhood obesity is linked to social class. What are your ministry’s plans to reverse this situation?
Yes, the rate of childhood obesity is double in the poorest homes and it is a chilling fact because it is linked to a shorter life expectancy. It is a complex phenomenon and that is why in the Ministry we have a plan that incorporates from the frontal labeling of food, [el sistema Nutriscore que identifica con cinco colores los alimentos en función de si son saludables o no], the prohibition of children’s advertising of unhealthy products; tax incentives and awareness campaigns.
In 2018, the implementation of Nutriscore color labeling was already announced, and it has not yet been implemented, why? Is there reluctance from the industry?
It is obvious that the industry that depends on products with sugars and others does not agree that measures are taken. But we have a commitment to public health, so it will be implemented throughout 2021. It’s not the perfect tag, but it’s a giant step because right now there’s nothing, which will allow us to keep moving forward.
“The rate of childhood obesity is double in the poorest homes, a chilling fact”
Will it be a progressive implementation or from a date?
One of the shortcomings of Nutriscore is that it is not mandatory for companies but we hope that the industry will join in massively from the beginning, because those that do not do so will be leaving a mark of suspicion for the user. And we are going to do a lot of pedagogy on the population so that they know how to use it.
The industry also rejects that raise taxes on drinks sugary, raising the price of a can a few cents, is it really a deterrent?
The pilot test that was carried out in Catalonia and the international evidence shows that it works, because it opens up the debate and shows people where the problems lie. Of course it is a first step in taxation, we are going to check the results and we are going to continue advancing.
When will children’s advertising of the most insane products be banned?
This requires front-end labeling to be in effect and it will be immediate, next year. The labeling will be a guide to be able to do the rest. Right now there is a self-regulation code for advertising that is being broken, which is why we have to change the model.
In Barcelona you asked for the expansion of public oral health services, a promise included in the coalition agreement, when will it take place?
The budgets for 2021 already include a small item. Once we have seen that private clinics have gone bankrupt and left many people in the lurch who have been left with the debt for unsatisfied services, we are clear that it is a segment of health that must be incorporated into the public system. It is a commitment for the entire legislature, which I hope will be fulfilled as soon as possible.
As for online gambling, which is the one that depends on the Government, once advertising is limited by royal decreeWhat new steps do you plan to take?
Much remains to be done in favor of safe and responsible gambling. We know that sometimes it is necessary to regulate strictly, as we have done with advertising, but we are more in favor of education and pedagogy to prevent compulsive consumption and explain to people the risks and the true nature of the activity. This also has to do with the design of cities because if there are more bookmakers than parks, we send the message that people have to have fun in those spaces where there is unhealthy consumption. We have to change that in collaboration with public administrations.
“If there are more bookmakers than parks, we send the message to people that they have to have fun in those spaces, we have to change that” “
Is it not contradictory that the advertising of online operators is prohibited and not from the lottery?
Bingo or betting is not the same as the Christmas lottery. The problem of compulsive gambling occurs when at the time of purchase you know if you have won or lost. When the prize is deferred, the psychological mechanisms are not so dangerous.
Will the controls be strengthened to prevent minors from playing?
We are very concerned because surveys indicate that there is a very significant percentage of minors who have ever gambled. And this is illegal. In the field of online gambling, the requirements are enormous to verify the identity of who is betting. In the face-to-face environment, unfortunately, there are situations of greater vulnerability, such as gaming halls with only one person, who often does not feel legitimized to act as the police. For this reason, it is essential that access control be reinforced, it is something that we are working on with the autonomies, which are the competent ones.
Will there be any change in the regulation of video games?
Video games are a very buoyant sector, it moves more money than the film industry. And we are concerned about a kind of slot machine that exists within video games, where bets are made to improve the game and parents are not aware that compulsive consumption is normalized. There is a notable lack of regulation, but some countries are beginning to prohibit or regulate it and in Spain we want to guarantee that no minor can use it.
“In the negotiations within the Government, it has not emerged that the budgets include a drop in VAT on feminine hygiene products”
Returning to the subject of taxes, why the Budgets do not include VAT reduction of the feminine hygiene products supported by both the PSOE and Unidas Podemos?
This measure was included in the draft of the budgets of the previous year, but in the negotiations it has not been able to advance. I particularly defend that all feminine hygiene products are essential and should have a lower VAT. We will work to make it so in the next budgets, those of 2022.
Why hasn’t it been included already?
The negotiations within the Government took place intensively and there are things that work out and other things that do not, and unfortunately this did not work out.