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Should Junk Food Be "Fat Taxed"?

The skinny:

Everyone knows junk food--especially fast food--is bad for you. In recent years, restaurants and food manufacturers have been required to list nutritional information in more obvious and realistic ways (including labels for trans fat content and more conspicuous serving size info), but some say that public health regulations should go further, by imposing a "fat tax" on junk food.

The idea was first presented in 1942, by a physiologist who suggested individuals be tax per pound they were overweight. The idea has moved from individuals to groups of food, particularly those which have been shown to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease (such as non-diet soda and foods containing high levels of saturated or trans fat). Fat taxing has moved in and out of the news over the last half century, but recently Denmark recently instituted such a program to promote public health.

Tax all the fat

Supporters argue that "revenue from a ‘fat tax’ could be used in various ways, such as financing subsidies for healthy foods or exercise equipment, funding advertising campaigns for healthy eating or in schools. Alternatively, it could form part of general government receipts. Backers also say the move would create "a potential $50 billion windfall," and that the revenue "could help offset the estimated $147 billion cost of treating obesity-related diseases and fund programs to battle the expanding girths of Americans."

Keep the government out of it

But opponents say it's at the expense of low-income families. With the cost of food essentially "upside-down" in the US, with healthy foods costing more than fast or junk foods, and since "the poor spend a greater proportion of their income on food," taxing what are now cheap and readily available foods could be a regressive move that limits the funds and available food for those already struggling to keep something on the table. Michelle Obama, who heads up an anti-obesity campaign, has argued against the fat tax. "People eat what they eat because they think it's OK. They don't need government telling them what to do. They just need good information and access."

What do you think, Neatoramanauts? Is a fat tax a good idea for the US?


The fat tax sounds like a proposal from a flowchart for a lazy bureaucrat:

If X is popular, have your picture taken with it. If X is unpopular, find out what people are blaming for it and then tax that.
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Lack of information is, in most cases, not the problem. I doubt you can find many in the western world who can't tell healthy from unhealthy food. What does work, on the other hand, is to tax unhealthy food and subsidize healthy food.

Shifting taxes is a powerful tool, and it also makes sense to shift taxes from work (which we want more of) to use of virgin resources (which we want less of).
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I think the problem is bigger and more complicated than just taxing it could solve. Michelle Obama's "food deserts" and "food swamps" issue is also really interesting and would seriously complicate this tax - certain people have very little *access* to healthy foods, so taxing unhealthy food really just punishes them for things outside of their control. Compound that with the reason fast food came around in the first place - because we needed food that was made quicker given to us faster so we can get going. SOLVE the problem, don't tax it.
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No no and no.... because people still think that saturated fats are bad for them. I don't want MY healthy sat fats taxed more b/c people are still under false assumptions.

If people want to eat unhealthy crap, then let them.
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Just another example of nanny government looking out for all of us poor morons who are too stupid to make good choices for ourselves. The concept of "freedom" includes the ability to do bad things to yourself and suffer the consequences. If I want to live off of Cheetos and Mountain Dew for a month, that's my business.
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Yes.. as discussed in previous Neatorama fat tax articles fat really isn't the culprit for diabetes and heart disease. The lipid hypothesis was incorrect. Keys included 7 countries and left out the other 21 countries because it didn't fit his curve.

You will see as Denmark becomes fatter due to this fail policy that they were wrong. A fat tax will make it more difficult for those in low income brackets (and proportionally are more overweight with diabetes) to lose weight.

So no. a fat tax is the worst idea you can possibly try to get people to eat healthier. You can only impose such a tax on unhealthy foods if you are first able to define and prove those foods to be unhealthy.
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America doesn't need to tax fatty food. The government just needs to stop subsidizing it.

As for other countries, like the UK, it could be a good idea. Obesity costs the National Health Service extra money, so it makes sense to raise tax money by taxing those things causing the increased cost. The same thing is done with cigarettes.

But that plan won't work in America because there is no point in taxing food that is subsidised at its source, and since everyone has to pay for their own healthcare, it's up to the individual how much they want to spend on it. (Granted, the US government doesn't mind making no sense. Tobacco farms are subsidised, and then cigarettes are taxed, to earn more money to subsidise tobacco farms.)
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Just today there was an article about this in my local newspaper. (I'm in Europe.) They've been doing information campaigns for years and years and years. Zero effect.

Use the revenue from the fat tax to make healthy food cheaper.

(PS: I'm not a health expert, but there IS an obesity epidemic in pretty much every western country in the world. In my country more than 50% of the population is overweight.)

European Union project probes effectiveness of healthy eating campaigns
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