A fat tax?

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Would you have a 'fat tax?'

Total votes : 12

A fat tax?

Postby champagne_supernova » Sat Sep 27, 2008 6:39 am

I don't know if this is the case in the UK (where most users seem to be from) but in New Zealand we have a growing obesity problem (excuse the pun). It's one of our major health issues, and while it may be due to cultural / lifestyle issues, I believe the problem lies in something that can be altered: food prices.

Given the cheap cost of production of unhealthy foods (fish and chips, Coke etc) the prices remain relatively low. Many healthy foods, however (especially foods that are imported) cost a significant amount of money, especially if a family is buying them every week. Last time I checked 1.5 litres of Coke was a dollar less than 1 litre of milk. The problem with this kind of pricing is what it does to families in low socioeconomic families: they are sucked into a vortex of unhealthy food, and are ultimately caught in a vicious cycle.

The implementation of a fat tax would be a more effective way of solving these problems than education children regarding the right foods to eat; some children can't decide. You can put on all the promotions you like but they are never going to be as effective as legislation. I haven't thought a lot about the exact logistics, but basically unhealthy foods with a certain fat or sugar content would be taxed to an extent that they were more expensive than healthy foods. This is a two - pronged attack on the issue:

1) It would deter people from purchasing unhealthy food and give greater opportunity to poor families to purchase healthy food.

2) If people decided not to change their eating habits, they'd effectively be paying the tax that funds their own healthcare (given that the public health system was well funded and effective).

Sure, there may be flaws, and you can condemn me for being an interventionist, but sometimes the government need to intervene.

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Postby parnassus » Sat Sep 27, 2008 7:46 pm

We have a similiar problem over here. The cheapest foods tend to be the ones that are the most unhealthy. Fruit and vegetables can be bought fairly cheaply as well, but when people are feeling hungry and want a quick snack they're unlikely to buy a bag of apples when they could have a bag of crisps.

I'm not sure about the economic practicalities of your idea, though. Food prices are linked to production costs, among other things. It costs more to grow good quality organic vegetables than it does to produce bag upon bag of frozen chips. I don't know how the idea would work in practice.
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Postby fraser » Sun Sep 28, 2008 8:14 am

I can see your point, and I think similar things may have been suggested before in the UK, but there are one or two points I'd like to make.
Firstly, I agree that unhealthy foods tend to be much cheaper, more heavily promoted, and therefore more accessible to low-income families.
In the UK at least, one solution might be to change VAT (tax paid on goods) rates. Most food is VAT free. "Luxury" foods, on the other hand, incur tax. Perhaps a lower VAT rate could be added to some foods, while healthier ones remained tax-free.
The difficulty though is that some families simply cannot afford to eat better - more expensive - foods. If there was a "fat-tax", I think the best solution would be to ring-fence the money, and re-invest it into health initiatives. Maybe the money could be used to subsidise healthier foods.
Another, more radical, solution would be some sort of food watchdog. Terrestrial TV stations are required to do a certain ammount of public-service broadcasting, mainly news. Perhaps supermarkets could be obliged to provide "public service" food - a certain proportion of food sold or advertised (by them) would have to be designated as "healthy". Maybe prices could be set by a watchdog, again possibly using subsidies.
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Postby Alice » Sun Oct 05, 2008 5:06 pm

Although I can see your point, there are two reasons I think it wouldn't be a good Idea:
1) My maternal grandma. She probably eats about a tablespoon of salt every day plus whatever is in her food (mostly bacon and cabbage). Last year she was found to have incredebly low sodium levels. I dread to think what her blood pressure would be like if she had a "healthy" diet of less salty foods.
2) An underweight freind of mine. He has a full english breakfast most mornings, according to his girlfriend. According to him, he also has a lot of fatty foods after school. His lunch takes up half his bag. He's had tests, theirs nothing wrong with him, eccept he's badly underweight. If high calorie foods became expensive, everyone would worry to death about him next year at university (and it probably wouldn't be to healthy for him either)

So you see, their health would be put at risk by forcing them too have a "heathy diet". As it happens, my grandma is fine when it comes to finances, and my freinds family are unlikley to let him starve, but what about other pepole with bodys that work differently from the normal modle? Wouldn't it be hurting them, for the sake of forcing pepole to be healthy when they don't really care.
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Postby Brian » Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:57 pm

My BMI is perfect , so it wouldn't bother me
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Postby parnassus » Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:13 pm

It is possible to have foods that are high in calorific value but still healthy. I see your point, though, Alice.
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