A junk food tax is designed to make unhealthy foods more expensive to purchase which in turn is suppose to decrease the growing obesity rate in the country. Plus, the proceeds from the tax would generally be used to promote healthy foods leading to a “win-win” according to its proponents. However, there is a great deal of controversy with this type of tax and there are substantive arguments on both sides of the issue.
In general, the tax would be much like that on cigarettes or alcohol which enjoys great popularity, but such “sin” taxes may be more for show than actual effect.
Pros of Junk Food Tax
Decrease Consumption Rates:
The best argument for a junk food tax is that would make people pay a cost for eating unhealthy foods. Rather than being lectured about the issues with unhealthy foods, the tax would act as a more passive means of discouraging their purchase. In addition, the money from the tax would be used to fight the effects of obesity which has been estimated to cost in the billions in terms of health care.
Greater Risk of Obesity:
Obesity causes a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and angina of which a junk food tax would help pay to offset in terms of the financial burdens. This includes the treatment, lost earning and even employment factors as those who are obese are roughly 25% less likely to be hired. While such a tax cannot pay for all of these costs, they can be used to help discourage people from becoming obese and encourage the consumption of health-friendly foods.
Encourages Healthier Eating:
Encouraging a healthier diet is at the core of the junk food tax and will also act to help food producers create a larger supply of foods that are lower in sugar and fat. Also, fast food outlets would be encouraged to provide healthier items on their menu as well. The revenues that are raised can be used for a number of purposes, but overall it does mean more money to address the issues of obesity in the country.
When combined with other taxes, this form of taxation could avoid being regressive and impacting lower income families disproportionally as some critics have seen it.
Cons of Junk Food Tax
Despite the many advantages that are listed, there are some serious issues associated with installing a junk food or “fat” tax on the public.
Arguably the most controversial aspect is which foods will be taxed. For example, many cheeses are high in fat, yet such foods are not usually considered as “junk food” despite their effects on obesity. Plus, consuming too many foods no matter how healthy they are will contribute to the obesity rate. So, there would be controversy over the application of the tax.
Overestimate the Cost of Obesity:
The estimates to how much obesity actually costs in terms of health care is subject to debate. Many people believe that other factors contribute to the health of an individual which means that being obese is not necessarily the only factor to consider.
There will be controversy on any junk food tax so the application of it will depend on a number of factors, including the size of the tax, what it covers and the communities that decide to enforce it.
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