We all know what it means to be healthy, but it’s definitely easier said than done. Right now, the US is trying to help its residents by adding a “fat tax” on unhealthy foods and beverages to help combat obesity and diabetes. The plans to also ban soft drinks from all schools, remove bad fats, help discourage eating junk food by adding more taxes onto your purchases. The idea is that you’ll be turned off by paying more for those items that you’ll be less likely to buy more of it.
The entire concept was started by Kelly Brownell, a professor of psychology at Yale University. She created two proposals which first suggested that that there be a 7-10% tax on foods that are considered unhealthy. Then, the tax revenue would subsidize the sales of healthy meals. The second idea is that another tax would get added as a way to fund various public programs that are big in supporting healthy eating.
However, an article from the Tax Policy Center states the solution isn’t as straightforward nor as effective as one believes it sounds. There are several reasons as to why that is. The first of which being an increase in taxes could alter what those in America consume. The question becomes what will be the replacement for higher taxed foods and beverages? A problem might be that while people are consuming less sugar, people might switch to beer and juice, or consume more bread, which is equally unhealthy. So if shoppers substitute items, it the whole point of the “fat tax” might be futile.
Another issue is that all types of sugar, natural or artificial, pose a risk. Taxing sugary beverages isn’t enough, as all kinds of sugar could contribute to health complications, even in fruit juices. Then there is the idea that taxes work the best when they’re more targeted. Cigarettes, for example, is a major cause of lung cancer and other smoking related diseases. If you wanted to treat these diseases, it’s possible, but it will cost you. Actually it’ll cost the taxpayers too, as medical costs are usually supported by Medicaid and Medicare. So adding taxes onto cigarettes can discourage people from smoking.
Nevertheless, sugar is not the only ingredient that people at risk for obesity. Other factors also play a significant role like genetics, your metabolic rate, and other heath conditions. The same goes for the lifestyle choices such as how active our lifestyles are. In fact, everybody is different. For example, someone who is severely obese has more health concerns over someone who is mildly overweight. Although a tax addition could help improve overall health, it can only do so much. An article from the Tax Policy Center states that the rate of obesity could get dropped by 1-4% if sugary drinks were moderately taxed.
That’s not a lot considering how many people in the US are obese. Currently, there are about 35% of people, aged twenty and over, who are classified as obese in the US. There are about 20% of adolescents between the ages of 12-19 that are overweight, and about 9% of kids between the ages of 2-5 that are obese. If a higher tax were more broadly applied to foods that might contribute to obesity, then it might be more effective.
However, a tax addition cannot singlehandedly fix all the problems going on with obesity. Taxes alone are not a substitute for identifying and assisting those at greater risk to become obese, diabetic or other related conditions. Although a “fat tax” will not completely eradicate obesity, it may be able to combat it to a certain degree. However, researchers at Nottingham University and Oxford University state that a 17.5% Value Added Tax (VAT) on unhealthy foods could save around 3,100 lives annually. They believe the tax would be effective at saving hundreds of lives by cutting off the supply of bad foods and not only reduce obesity in America but lower risk of heart attacks too.
Still, another tax increase may not be a good thing, more so because it’s the money issue and there are not a lot of people out there who could say they enjoy paying taxes. If the tax were added, it could be a blow to those who live on food stamps or lower income families. Do you believe the addition will be a right and helpful way to fight obesity or will it simply be ineffective?