How crazy of an idea is the fat tax?
I always enjoy watching a local U.S. news telecast whenever I can, if for no other reason than the obligatory “Is America getting too fat?” story a few minutes in.
You know the ones I’m talking about, the features where a reporter rambles off a bunch of stats while they show those shots of fat people from the neck down.
Those are always fun.
But we’re not exactly Tony Little-fit as a nation, either, and the plagues of obesity run much deeper than a higher risk of heart disease or the propensity to break a sweat while brushing your teeth.
In Canada, where health care costs are absorbed by government, taxpayer money is funnelled away by the millions to treat conditions brought on by something largely avoidable.
(I know, I know, many overweight people have medical conditions or genetic disorders that prevent them from losing weight. This is not a debate about that. But, I think, even those people would concede they are in the minority within the obese population.)
So, how do you fix it?
A quasi-radical solution, as pitched by Wisebread.com’s Paul Michael, is the fat tax.
Without regurgitating his argument too much (you can read it here), Michael essentially outlines how the tax could be used as a deterrent on junk food, insomuch as trying to remove it as an easily affordable purchase for people to make on a day-to-day basis.
Value menu items, he says, have become too attractive an option for people on a tight budget. When a double cheeseburger is a third of the price of a salad, where is the incentive to eat healthy?
Of course, anti-big brother, “enough government already!”-people will blast this proposal right from the start. And they’re right, it is a little totalitarian.
But you can also see there is a case to be made. More expensive junk food means, in theory, less opportunity for society to gain weight. That, in turn, means less strain on national health care. And, coupled with the decreased costs of having to mass-treat conditions like diabetes and hypertension, more tax money to use toward schools, bridges and all that good stuff.
What do you guys think? Is this somehow, someway - in some universe – not totally the worst idea ever?
By Jason Buckland, MSN Money
Posted by: LM Ridley | Oct 21, 2021 5:26:25 AM
Where does it end? Should people who engage in activities such as skydiving or riding motorcycles pay a danger tax? Should people who have sex with more than one partner pay an STD tax? Should we be sending the food police out to vet your table and write you a ticket if you don't follow the government-dictated food plan? Mind your own bloody business.
Oh, and regarding your comment concerning how people who are obese for medical reasons are "in the minority"...this statement is not only arrogant, it shows how sorely misinformed you are. Then again, obesity seems to be one of the few medical conditions where laypersons seem to think they know more than the experts in the field (who, btw, are learning more every day about it). I've read medical studies concerning obesity on Medline and other medical forums - contrary to popular belief and prejudice, there are serious metabolism and hormonal issues involved in the MAJORITY of cases of obesity. Before you sound off, perhaps you should know something about the subject.
Posted by: Mike | Oct 21, 2021 8:30:28 AM
Ridley over there sure like's to spout off, but has little to say of value. Want the real numbers? A study published in the New England Journal of medicine states that only 3% of people who are morbidly obese have a medical condition preventing them from losing weight.
I have a strong suspicion that the "medical forums" you're reading are the same forums that talk about shadow governments, alien abductions, how drug companies have the cure for cancer but are holding it back, and that Elvis has been spotted at a bass shop in Michigan.
Sounds like you need to calm down and go have another pie.
Posted by: Tim Hayes | Oct 21, 2021 9:15:24 AM
I think that most of the people that are overweight say they would love to lose weight, but can't.
If you want something bad enough, and have the willpower, you can do it.
I do think that the obese people that can lose the weight, but don't want to, should be taxed extra to pay for the added burden they are causing on health care.
And if the true numbers were ever published, we would find out the truth about the statistics, but I don't seem to see much truth coming from any level of government that seems to tell us that they have a better idea of how we should do things.
Any study that is done will get results in favour of the person or organization that is paying for the study. If not, the study results would never be published in the first place. Common sense.
Posted by: MAO | Oct 21, 2021 9:19:08 AM
Though it makes sense to try whatever can be done to reduce people's propensity for gaining weight, which includes a bad diet - what no one seems to realize is that those on a poor budget (as in having little to no money) tend to eat less meals per day - 1 or 2 meals. When you do get to eat - do you want to eat a salad - or a triple hamburger? Healthy food is expensive! I was working and ate quite well until I lost my job. Now on a super tight budget, I notice the cost of the things I took for granted. It's more expensive to buy milk than pepsi - so buy pepsi. Chips are cheaper than bread, so buy bread. Go to McDonald's - its cheaper to buy a hamburger (and more filling) than to buy a salad. This is what drives people to obesity. Yes - I have been gaining weight since I stopped working, I eat less (about a meal a day) and what I eat has poor nutritional value - but at least I am full until the next day.
Our metabolism is made in such a way that when you eat like that - your body goes into starvation mode - stocking fat until you are able to eat regularily. The entire metabolism is thrown out of order and thus you get very obese people.
It's easy when you have a regular paycheck and no worries of where your next meal is coming from to criticize those who are less fortunate. Society has to change - if you tax "junk food", what will the poor eat? If the price of healthy food doesn't go down - they'll just eat whatever is cheap - even if there is a tax on it. The problem is not solved.
Our stores have to provide better incentives to eat healthy, rather than stores throwing away produce - give it away to some organization that can provide this food to registered families and make it easy to qualify - especially if you are overweight. It will feed those who don't have the money to otherwise buy this healthy food and solve the weight problem. In return, the government can give a tax break to those distributors or producers who provide this service.
In the meantime, I am sorely hoping to find a job - so I can eat better and lose all this weight!
Posted by: Steve | Oct 21, 2021 9:42:13 AM
I think it's time that an alternate approach to tax is used. Although taxing is likely the easiest to implement, as it is done accross the board, why not provide tax relief to those who are willing to stay healthy. As an example, provide a tax break for those enrolled in gyms. A lot of times, the fees may seem expensive, but if they are subsidized, they may become more affordable and less exclusive.
I have been overweight for most of my natural life, but it was only recently that i had made the decision to lose the weight. And no, it is not easy, but through proper nutrition and exercise, i've managed to shed 65lb.
It is not only a matter of eliminating junk food, but people have to empower themselves to strive to improve their personal health.
Posted by: Mike | Oct 21, 2021 10:50:42 AM
MAO is just feeding another misconception. Healthy food is NOT expensive. Paying someone else to make healthy food for you is. What the hell are you doing eating at MacDonald's if you don't have a job? With no job, you should definitely have the time to actually cook yourself some food. That $6 you just spent on a Big Mac meal could've bought you a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread and a 3lb bag of apples. Which is more filling and nutritious?
Bottomline, if you are constantly and consistently eating fattening food, you are being lazy.
Posted by: Sivvy | Oct 21, 2021 10:50:57 AM
Fat Tax? Sounds stupid.
Really, though it's a stupid idea, there is a way to turn it around... I honestly would not mind paying a fat tax... So long as the proceeds went to everyone making healthy food/produce, so that in 6 months, I can afford a salad over a burger. I want to eat healthy... But lack the means to get it. Extra Lean ground beef is getting close to double the cost of regular ground beef. Bison/Buffalo is even more. Health costs money.
I would love to see everyone paying a small amount extra on fatty foods, so long as it reduced the price of healthy foods. One day... we could eat some less-than-filling lettuce for less money than a double-cheeseburger combo.
Posted by: Pat | Oct 21, 2021 11:16:14 AM
I agree with some of the comments. If you are struggling why are you going out to MacDonalds to eat. On another note, I have often wondered why salads cost so much in restaurants. When the majority of the dish is lettuce of some kind I don't understand the cost to the consumer. Take a ceasar salad for example, the ingrediets are minimal and the cost is almost the same as some entrees with alot more ingredients and preparation time. I think that restaurants need to take a step back and rethink the price of salads on their menus.
Posted by: Char | Oct 21, 2021 11:36:39 AM
Mike I am not sure where you live, If I could get eggs,bread and apples for 6 bucks I'd be rich. It is, very expensive to buy health/healthy foods.
Posted by: Dwayne D | Oct 21, 2021 12:05:55 PM
McDonalds is the biggest hypocrite of them all.Whenever they come out with something even remotely healthy it's always mroe expensive than almost everything else on the menu (their McLean burger was more than $3.00 when it was introduced here back in the early nineties).So, when it's discontinued a few months later due to lack of sales they always say "Well, we tried.It's not our fault America is getting fatter."
What a crock.
Posted by: warmfuzzy | Oct 21, 2021 1:02:05 PM
How about a fat-head tax for all those people with nothing better to do than conjure up more tax ideas?
Posted by: chikitabannana | Oct 21, 2021 1:19:28 PM
Well, on one part I feel it would be unfair to tax burgers etc because if a family is really stretched out budget wise, that would be too hard.
On the other hand, it's not fair that our health care goes up because some lazy person can't be bothered to take a walk and eats an all cheese and bread diet.
If these overweight people just went for 4 1 hour walks a week their health would be a heck of alot better. Perhaps the government should include in highschool a class dedicated to properly eating studies? Also if someones doctor notes they have become too fat they are forced to enroll in an ecercise program or be billed more by the government.
Posted by: Mish | Oct 21, 2021 1:27:55 PM
To start, I am one of those people who have a medical reason for weight issues (major thyroid problems compounded by other issues including cancer) BUT I STILL FOUND A WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT AND GET BACK TO A HEALTHY BMI. Like it was said before, if there is a will there is a way. I has taken me two years to lose 60 pounds but I am reaping the health benefits now. Another 10 pounds and I am at my goal, should be there by Christmas. All this to say, people need to take responsibility for their own lives. I decided it would be TOO EXPENSIVE to stay sick and I had too much to live for and want to be healthy to enjoy it! I got good medical advice and made up my mind to eat healthy, even on a tight budget....SO IT CAN BE DONE.
I don't agree with the whole tax thing, just look at smoking. Life is not fair, weight, wealth, cancer, just pick one but people need to learn that ******LIFE IS ABOUT CHOICES******* and I have made mine!
Posted by: textual revolution | Oct 21, 2021 1:39:41 PM
How about this -- take the fat tax and use it to subsidize agricultural production. Not only would this reduce the cost of healthy fruit and vegetables, the cost savings could also be passed along in fatty, taxable products that use fruit and vegetable as part of their unhealthy offerings (provided manufacturers / distributor / sellers played ball). Hopefully the savings would be enough to counteract any new tax to not piss off the majority of fatty food providers, other than the worst-of-the-worst like candy and chocolate bars (think about it, hamburgers can be made to be healthy, but your Mars bar probably isn't getting any healthier).
Think how much McDonald's wood save on all those tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and onions and even on the ketchup, relish and mustard. Think how frequently corn and wheat are used in virtually everything from bread for hamburger buns and tortillas for your enchillada. And cheaper blueberries and flour could reduce Tim Horton's costs for your daily blueberry muffin. The only thing you're doing is making healthy alternatives more cost-efficient and the worst more cost-inefficient. The rest are like the base line costs. Also, the healthier the product, the greater the saving thereby (hopefully) enticing fattier producers to innovate with healthier ingredients.
Under this arrangement the poor have better access to healthier foods, farmers might actually make a profit and we could spend less on obesity-related healthcare too. Could this be the perfect solution, or am I dreaming in technicolour?
Posted by: Go for it | Oct 21, 2021 2:34:05 PM
Where do you live that you can't get that food for $6? I'm in Calgary and can get a dozen eggs for $2.25, a loaf of whole wheat bread for $1.25, and three pounds of apples for maybe $2.10. That's under $6 and of course there's no GST. Everything is top quality.
As has been stated, people that can't do much about it are few and far between. Most are too lazy to make a meal themselves or do any exercise. Fat tax all the way! It will save the health care system (and hence everyone... obese or not) money.
Posted by: Melissa | Oct 21, 2021 2:36:44 PM
I totally agree with this editorial. Cigarettes have been highly taxed by the government for years, with the explanation that it is partially due to the increased health costs to care for smokers. I have said for years that, in that vein of thinking, doritos should be taxed too as there are just as many complications that come from obesity as with smoking. This does not interfere with the person's right to choose what they eat, they just have to pay a bit more to make unhealthy choices.
Posted by: Adam | Oct 21, 2021 2:46:16 PM
I am wondering who actually thinks McDonalds is cheap. A big Mac combo costs about 6.50$ whereas the other day I bought a kilogram of ground beef (it wasnt lean but medium) for 5.50$. From this I could make 8 - 1/4 pound burgers. Of course it was not the healthiest cut of meat but it was not processed. I think most people don't realize the biggest problem with McDonalds is not necessarily the fat but the high sodium content. A homemade burger will never contain the same amount of salt as a processed McDonalds burger will. With this said I think the fat tax would work to an extent. Think about smoking for instance. In the early 80's the smoking rate in quebec (my province of residence) was nearing 50%. Now the smoking rate in quebec (which is the highest in the country by the way) is only 18%. Many things many have contributed to this decline including the high price of cigarettes. Maybe if this food was made outrageously expensive people would also stop buying it.
Posted by: Mike | Oct 21, 2021 2:46:52 PM
I think Jason, you have gone wayy out of proportion. First off Obesity is a diesiese, funded by our government. How you may ask? Just take a look around, when you walk into a grocery store -these stores are designed in specific ways to feed on impulse. Why isn't the Source (the Gov't) taking action on this. Grocery chains work just the same way Casino's do. They get you in, spend as much as you can and wind up paying the price later.
And to make fun of the video footages of oversized people, c'mon! Don't you think we are living in a society today where we shoult know better to keep our mouth shut before we say something cruel and unjust.
Ontop of that most of us, including myself are on a low income whereby it makes it virtually impossible to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Many of the things to which I can afford are processed, about 70% of store bought items are processed and they are inexpensive for the people that can't afford a glamorous meal each night.
So when you are about to sit down for your nice dinner, think about the big picture then maybe you will begin to realize that this is not a problem, but a social issue that will never change, until the Gov't steps in and does something about it... But in all fairness do we really want the gov't to take control of everything in our lives???
Posted by: nitemonkee | Oct 21, 2021 3:08:43 PM
The whole idea of a fat tax is just to much. All this is, is a way for the gov to soak the people for more money. They tax the hell out of the middle class and give the rich better tax breaks. It should be the other way around. The gov will sell us cigarettes but they don't want us to smoke. Next thing they'll want to tax us everytime we wipe our ass!
Posted by: Russell | Oct 21, 2021 4:04:45 PM
Mike where do you shop cause I would like to get a 3lb bag of apples 12 eggs and a loaf of bread for 6 bucks. Im not saying that eating out isn't more expensive than making a meal yourself but honestly when was the last time you got bread, eggs, and fruit for 6 bucks. I usually spend 9-12 on those three things alone. Although they do make more than one meal. Or at least I would hope they would, cause if not it doesnt matter how healthy of food you eat your just eating way to freaking much. But come on dont yell at a guy for eating a hamburger at MC greasy's over the salad they offer because he is right when he said the choice on the menue is a cheap burger oran expensive salad. Also I would wager that cheaper less healthy food is usually able to keep longer and can be bought in bulk orders to further save money cause lets face who can eat 6 heads of lettuce from costco before it goes bad. But a box of frozen chicken fingers or pizza pops are good till they are done and if you are watching your money you dont want to be throwing out food.
To the people who say gym memberships should be paid by the government, I think that there are enough government employees taking our tax dollars not helping the citzens without Gym owner's taking thier share of the cash. I would like to see goverment run gyms where the public is welcome to use the facilites for a minimal fee to those in a certain tax braket and above and free to minors and those who couldn't afford to go to the gym otherwise.
Long story short people should aim to be healthy not thin. Keep up with health life style choices and be happy with yourself.