Should there be a fat tax on junk food?

I think there’s some latent absurdness here - the logical extension to some of the posts would be to quit mucking around trying to tax fatty food, and tax fatty people. This is more about shaking down large food conglomerates than anything, I’d wager.

Eating habits for the masses have definitely changed in the last decades. “Going out to eat” was somewhat of a rarity for the middle class at least, something to look forward to, and even get gussied up a bit. Today, I look around and there are chain restaurants everywhere, and lots of couples would burn water if they tried to cook, so “fast food” is a steady and regular part of their diet. Couple that with a sedentary lifestyle, and guess what? The problem is actually one of affluence and laziness!

Paying taxes is so much easier than buying the land to build your own roads and keeping people who didn’t pay off of them. It’s also easier to pay taxes for a standing fire department to put out your neighbour’s blazing house than it is to fight the fire yourself to protect your house. Hospitals, schools and universities, police…

In another thread someone complains about money ‘taken at gunpoint’ from his pay. The governments aren’t stealing people’s pay. They are making it simple for people to pay for the services and infrastructures that people use every day.

As to the OP, no I don’t think junk food should be taxed. (Well, maybe sales taxes on prepared foods; but no ‘sin tax’.)

Are Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs junk food if they’re fortified with vitamins and minerals? Couldn’t even the junkiest of junk foods be turned “nutritious” with the right additives?

I think it’s too hard to define “junk.”

Remember what George Harrison once sang:

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Where does it end? And why should I, who is someone who is definitely not obese, but who likes to enjoy a Whopper every now and then, have to pay a tax because of other people’s gluttony?

Kendall Jackson:

This bears repeating.

Well, maybe we should drop the taxes on cigarettes-people who msoke heavily die young. this would “kill” two birds with one stone!


Eating is a necessity of life, smoking isn’t. Why not, by extension, place a tax on exercise due to burden of the billions of dollars sports and athletic injuries place among the medical system? :rolleyes:

We can tax people for breathing unclean air (their damn fault for living in a valley), or for drinking non-flouridated water. :smiley:

A sleep tax: if you sleep too much, you get taxed. I think that people should learn to get by on 6-7 hours/day just like I do: it would behoove all of us for everybody to pay a $.50 tax on every hour above 7 that they sleep a day. I mean, shit, there’s things to do. “Sleeping” isn’t fulfilling the social contract - working to make sure that you’re taxing fat and lazy people is!

The above are also life “necessities” which can be “abused” to the detriment of society - why not tax them as well?

Sedentary lifestyles are arguably an even bigger contributor to obesity than diet. Ever seen traditional farm fare? It’s packed with calories and fat because you need a ton of calories when you’re doing traditional farming.

So on your rationale, it would make more sense to tax TV and internet access – a tax based on total connection time would probably be best. Still think it’s a good idea?

Taxing people to discourage what you consider bad behavior is a bad idea. Where do you stop? Do you tax people for having hobbies that don’t contribute to the national or global economy? After all, all that time people spend on activities like that could be said to harm the economy.

When in doubt, err on the side of personal liberties. If a person isn’t harming someone else, we should let them do what they want.

Cite? I go to the grocery store every week, and produce is some of the cheapest food around. Cookies and candy cost more than produce does. While it’s part of our “common knowledge” bandied about by the chattering classes, there is little support for the statement that unhealthy food is cheaper than healthy food.

That being said, a fat tax is ridiculous. While we can all point to foods that are clearly unhealthy and clearly healthy, there is a lot of food in the middle. Avacados, for instance, are full of fat. What about chips with Olean, which have no fat? The administrative burden of this tax would be enormous and would likely outweigh (pardon the pun) any benefits of such a tax.

Which brings me to my next point – what would the benefits be of such a tax? Supposedly it would incentivize healthy food by raising the cost of unhealthy food. However, there is already plenty of cheap, healthy food. Some people simply choose not to buy it.

Furthermore, I’d like a cost of how much it costs “society” to treat health costs due to obesity. While the OP claims we all pay for this cost, that is not really true. Most people have health insurance and their costs are born by them and their health insurance companies. If health insurance companies want to charge obese people more for insurance, that is a much better way of addressing this problem than by taxing everyone. Of course, many state governments have laws that prevent this. Let’s advocate for a repeal of these laws instead of a draconian “fat tax.”

There is the problem of Medicaid and Medicare recipients that we, collectively, pay for. I’m all in favor of making Medicaid and Medicare recipients get healthy. If they are on the dole, they need to reduce the liklihood of them needing health care. If someone proposes a health regimen for these folks, I’ll vote for them.

These ideas, which would address the problems of obese people who cost us healthy folks money by increased health care costs, are much better than a fat tax.

Normally, I agree with everything you say, however, in this context, I think you have to look at total cost. I can go any corner McDonalds and for $5, I can eat 5 things off the menu which will be pretty filling (tax not included).

However, if I want to go to a grocery store, I have to count transportation costs, added time for travelling and cooking, and I can’t buy in small enough amounts to come in under $5. Sure, over the cost of several meals, $5 can buy you lunch for the week, but when there aren’t easy ways for the poor to get to the stores, then it becomes a tax on their food supply.

When I first heard this argument, I thought, how hard is it for someone to get to the store? Then, I realized that suburban areas are noticeably poor on public transportation; stores with fresh produce is very uncommon relative to fast food joints, and even cities with big populations, public transportation is still pretty weak.

Finally, a voice of reason on the SDMB :wink:

True, McDonald’s is pretty cheap. But so is Subway (although admittedly not as cheap). However even McDonald’s has a variety of healthy (or not as unhealthy) options.

Agreed. However, we should not assume poor=no transportation. Most people living in poverty have a car (a significant portion even have two). So while it may be true that a minority of those living in poverty have trouble going to a grocery store, I don’t think this is widespread. Even when I lived in DC, good grocery stores were located in or near areas of high poverty. In fact, I’d make it a point to walk to the Giant in the bad part of town instead of going to the Safeway in the better part of town because the Giant was far superior.

Now that I live in a more rural area, I see plenty of people who look poor (and fat) in the Wal-Mart I frequent. If they can make it to Wal-Mart, they can make it to the grocery section of Wal-Mart and buy some of its cheap groceries.

Speaking as a fat, sedentary, computer using, junk food eating, quasi-libertarian, I say no. Leave me and my people alone! Go tax those joggers who clog up the streets with their insipid running around. :smiley:

True, but I think we need to compare apples and oranges (so to speak). Snack foods do indeed cost more than fruits and vegetables; however, lean snacks cost more than fatty snacks. Similarly, lean cuts of meat tend to cost more than fatty cuts.

Some would say, “But chicken and turkey cost less than beef!” True; however, the lean cuts of poultry are more expensive than the fatty cuts. Similarly, the lean cuts of beef tend to be more expensive than the one that are fat-laden.

I disagree. Produce is pretty expensive if you consider how much of it you would need to survive. Of course, most people wouldn’t attempt to survive on produce, so we need to start adding in other foods, and we run into even bigger difficulties. As **JThunder]/b] says, lean meats are more (sometimes much much) more expensive than fatty meats, etc.

Cheap foods tend to be the starches–potatoes, rice, pasta. There’s nothing wrong with these foods for many people, and there’s a ton wrong with them for others.

I know this statement to be true:for millenia, the Chinese people subsisted on a diet high in rice. I pre-potato famine Ireland, the average irish laborer consumed almost 10 lbs. of potatoes a day-and there was very little obesity in China or Ireland. Yet modern man seems to get fat…is it indeed our sedentary lifestyle?

If all you have is rice or potatoes, and a limited amount of those, I imagine most people wouldn’t get fat. I think it’s a combination of more food options, cheaper, plus the lack of hard labor. In other words, I think people being fat is a side-effect of good things. People are fat because they aren’t starving or working themselves to a nubbin.

A diet of fruits and vegetables is both healthy, cheap, and is practiced by millions of vegetarians worldwide. Throw in some meat (and, yes, a pound of meat is more expensive than, say, a TV dinner, but it’s not prohibitively expensive) and you can eat quite well. And especially since quite a few poor people are on some sort of food assistance, it seems that they could easily afford to buy cheap, healthy food if they so chose. And I’m sure many of them do. I’m also sure that many don’t, and that’s a large part of why they are fat.

Of course, if you want to address this, just change the law to say that food stamps won’t pay for anything except fruit, vegetables, and meat. That would also be a much more fairly targeted solution to the problem of economic costs to society from obesity.

But, like you say, I can take my $5 to the grocery store and buy the bread and meat for at least a week’s worth of turkey sandwiches (no cooking required) in one trip. Even if it’s harder for me to get to the grocery store than McDonald’s, I have to go to McDonald’s five times as often because I can only buy one meal at a time. Doesn’t that essentially even out the transportation costs, or even tip them in favor of the grocery store?