Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Junk Food Tax: Reasonable Public Health Measure or Evidence of a Nanny State?

By now, you might have heard about the “junk food tax” or “fat tax.” No doubt, you’ve read a few articles and thought, “This is a wonderful idea!” or “Man, what are these people smoking?” At a potluck this past weekend, a few friends debated the notion, and reactions seemed to mirror those sentiments.

If you haven’t heard of the junk food tax, the idea is this: to help curb obesity, the government would add a tariff on to unhealthy foods, such as soda and pizza. While no concrete legislation has been passed (as far as I’m aware), the specter of the tax has ignited some debate. Will it really help our weight problems? Is it fair to tax people who can’t afford healthy food? Aren’t we capable of choosing what we eat? Where would it end?

I’m of two minds on this.
  • When I consider the overall health of the nation, taxing junk food seems like a decent idea. Though education would ultimately be the best way of solving our obesity problem, it will take awhile. A tariff, on the other hand, is an immediate solution, and according to a recent study, might be more effective than subsidizing produce. Not to mention, the extra funds raised by the tax could go toward programs encouraging healthier behaviors. We tax booze and cigarettes, so why not junk food?
  • When I consider me – just me – my answer is very, very different. I can control my own intake, and don’t think I should be punished financially for wanting the occasional Pepperidge Farm Mint Milano (a.k.a. What Cookies Must Be Like in Heaven).
I’m curious as to your opinions, though, sweet readers, and would love to read your thoughts. Based on the arguments, I’ll compose a piece for next week outlining the good and bad points of the idea in more depth, as well as the readers’ general consensus.

The comment section is open: What’s your opinion of a potential junk food tax?

(Needless to say, please keep it civil.)

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