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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?


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October 30th, 2011

Stranger to the World


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