Public Health Could Be Improved With A Big “Fat Tax”

Taxing fatty and sugary foods could help lower rates of obesity but the tax would have to big; 20% big.

Denmark and Hungary have already introduced such a tax and France has a tax on sugary drinks.

Skyrocketing obesity and diabetes has made it necessary for countries to control health care costs and a fat tax seems to be the answer.

Discouraging high calorie, nutritionally deficient foods and subsidizing healthy foods could help mitigate the problem.

“Soft drinks consumption is simpler in comparison with food, and we can be more confident of the likely effects,” says Mytton in an email. According to Mytton, when one food item is taxed, people tend to switch consumption to other food items that are not necessarily healthier. For example, if there’s a tax on foods higher in saturated fat, consumers may switch to foods high in salt. “These effects don’t really happen with drinks as the economic data suggests. They either buy a similar drink that is untaxed or they don’t buy a drink at all,” says Mytton.

The reason for this could be that the body doesn’t register liquid calories in the same way it does food calories, so it’s easier to overdo it with drinks. “People don’t tend to feel full from drinking a high-calorie drink, so it seems less likely that people will buy foods to replace taxed liquid calories,” says Mytton. “People need food, but as with alcohol and tobacco, they don’t need the extra calories they get from sugar-sweetened beverages.”

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