By Audrey Quinn
Posting in Environment
Researchers say a junk food tax of 20% would affect grocery shopping habits and curb obesity.
I've recently been a sucker for discussions of systemic approaches to addressing obesity, as you can see from my posts on targeting food deserts and developing new diet pills. Institutions (at least ones operating on-level) can't prevent people from eating too much or too poorly, but they can introduce clever ways to alter our behavior around food. Such solutions not only raise issues of health, but those of class, morality, and governance as well.
The suggestive mechanism du jour is a junk food tax. University of Oxford researchers reported yesterday on bmj.com that benefits from such a tariff could be seen if junk food is taxed at at least a 20% rate. The reserachers explain:
Health related food taxes could improve health. Existing evidence suggests that taxes are likely to shift consumption in the desired direction, although policy makers need to be wary of changes in other important nutrients. However, the tax would need to be at least 20% to have a significant effect on population health.
They cite a study on the impact of soft drink taxes in a number of U.S. states. The states all had soda taxes at 1-8%, which appeared to be too small of a deterrent to affect population health. The researchers then looked at the results of studies that tried raising taxes in simulated or closed environments. In many of these studies, such taxes had a significant impact on consumer choices. The report states:
For example a 35% tax on sugar sweetened drinks ($0.45 (£0.28; €0.34) per drink) in a canteen led to a 26% decline in sales.
The the third part of the report looked at modelling for economic impacts on health. Here's where they got that 20% value. Apparently that's the tax on sugary drinks needed to reduce obesity in the U.S. The authors comment that such a tax would have a weaker effect in the UK, but mainly because of less soft drink consumption there to begin with. They found models of the effect of such taxes on unhealthy food items less conclusive.
The Oxford researchers acknowledge that such a tax would be regressive in that it would have a disproportionate impact on the poor, a point which similar prior arguments failed to address. But, they add:
Progressive health gains are expected because poor people consume less healthy food and have a higher incidence of most diet related diseases, notably cardiovascular disease. Consequently the absolute reduction in disease incidence would be greater among poorer groups, assuming similar dietary changes. Moreover there is some evidence that those who are poorer are more sensitive to price changes and so would experience greater dietary improvements.
That still sounds like a values judgement to me, I would like to see further research into such inequities.
But, even if more academic evidence emerges in support of the efficacy of junk food taxes, larger hurdles lie ahead of tax implementation. There's the matter of convincing the public to accept so-called "nanny state" policies, and, there's the powerful soft drink lobby to battle. For example, in 2010 Washington State lawmakers instituted a soda and candy tax. It was voted down just six month later by the state's citizens, through an initiative funded with $16 million from the American Beverage Association.
Photo: Lauren Mitchell/Flickr
May 16, 2012
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Taxing junk food may be a quick and crowd pleasing way to deal with the problem of obesity, but from where I sit, the problem is caused by two main issues: the reduction and elimination of Physical Education from many elementary schools across the country, along with the lack of summer activity programs for children; and the fact that for many people on Food Stamps, it is cheaper to eat poorly than to eat healthier food. If all the health conscious food do-gooders could just live on a monthly budget of about $200 a month for a family of three, depending on your monthly income, and tell me how to do it without eating a lot of boxed foods, let them do it!
I wanted to let the author and other readers know that in the past few years, as political organizations challenging the many aspects of discrimination against the adipose began attracting a few members of the medical, fitness and other health professions, as well as sociologists and cultural anthropologists, these began forming a faction to promote a dissident paradigm called Health At Every Size. A researcher at U.C. Davis, Linda Bacon, wrote a book by this name. I hope you'll check her web site out as well as the Association for Size Diversity and Health. More recently, on KPFA, after one guest spoke of his promotion of a soda tax in Richmond, CA (which would tax sweetened sodas a penny an ounce but not tea, coffee, dairy, medical, pediatric, or, hilariously enough, sweetened drinks "for weight reduction"), another guest, who authored a book called "Your Brain On Nature", mentioned as one of his points that poor people with access to open natural spaces have almost as much longevity as rich people. He did not say whether this applied equally to fat poor people as to thin poor people, but what if the ability to see, hear, and feel something truly naturally pleasant once in a while (something that some seem hell-bent on denying fat people) is a far more important thing for health than body size?
When did being fat become criminalized? Why is this being pushed in a time where there are gangs, Mexican drug lords are trying to send violence into the US, the economy is still recovering, etc? You get Americans focused on a side issue and maybe they won't look at the big picture.
There is something fundamentally wrong here a food tax is not moral. Proper health is hampered by excessive cost not helped. The Junk is not food its the additives and processing that destroys food value. Excessive insane cost to add to hunger? Evil suggestion actually evil.
that make junk food cheaper to produce. Then maybe they could reduce taxes and spending instead of adding to it.
A junk food tax is just another tax. Just another way for the government to get more money to waste on ridiculous programs. This would work no better than the additional taxes on cigarettes. People still smoke. People will find a cheaper place to buy their junk food. It won't stop them from consuming it. Another stupid idea from unrealistic people.
How far will they go to control the citizens into behaviors they deem 'correct'? We might as well let the government control our food sources and provide us the food they think we should eat. We could just drive up to the government run grocery store and they'd have our groceries already picked out for us (why let us choose?). Yeah, sounds extreme but it sure seem like they want to control what we eat. Find a different way. Also, what about us that are not obese or overweight, do we get a tax exception? I'm 37, 6' 2" 165 lbs. and I can eat anything I want and won't gain any weight. Why should I pay an 'obese tax'?
...that Progressives actually are capable of understanding the concept of demand elasticity. If they were only capable of applying that understanding to other aspects of their political agenda...
This is just another fool's idea of a way to get more tax money from overtaxed citizens. They have tried this on alcohol, did not work. They have tried this on cigarettes, did not work. They have tried this on gasoline, did not work. People want it they will pay!
I laugh at all the experts while I'm standing in the local fast food joint. Proper diet habits start with training mom and dad who pass on those habits to children at a very young age. Children eat through life what is comfort food. That is what mom and dad provided them when they were very young. My children love salads and veggie plates. Why? Because it was the treat they got when they were young. They also received candy and soda but by that time there habits were formed and those treats were on the same footing as the healthy ones. Two boxes of hamburger helper with the cheap meat will make you fatter then the soda. Want to fix it, teach it, and teach parents how to eat healthy. Otherwise you are just passing the behavior on to generation after generation and the problems multiply. Look at the family; you can see the eating habits they have from a block away. A lifetime of habits isn't going to be changed by an increase in cost. Ask the folks driving the SUV's and big 4x4's. Gas prices stink but, can't take the Mini Cooper hunting, mud running or to pick up plywood at the local hardware store! At least not yet!
The tax code has for years been used to regulate or incentivize behavior, and this is just another example. The issue comes in when the government tries to codify exactly what constitutes "junk food" and exactly what a "health food" is. Once those lines are drawn, then the food producers will alter the makeup of their products to move there product over or under the thresholds.
If you tax junk food then quite a few stores will close their doors as that is what they sell the most!
Finding samples in the real world for real families is quite easy using "Official Samples" site, Remember, it???s not how much you save, but how little you spend.
The food was changed in the USA, UK and Australia 30 years ago when dangerous food chemicals from the USA was allowed into Europe. The food today causes stubborn insulin If you have stubborn insulin you hold fat and have a hard time losing weight. You can eat very little and the weight still does not come off. Stubborn insulin will hold fat and diets won???t work. When researchers used a specialized diabetes diet on overweight people all lost weight even those who did not have diabetes. Why people cannot lose weight was revealed in Denmark here and diet soda makes you fatter See here http://spirithappy.org/wp/2011/06/29/i-have-tried-every-diet-new-study-agrees-with-spirit-happy-diet-soda-causes-weight-gain/
Doubt it. Researchers said is one of the most over used statements of our day. Right up there next to UNPRESIDENTED. Researchers said if the city of Boston banned sugary drinks from school vending machines obesity in kids would go down. It did not. It went up. Researchers said if the city of Boston banned prepackaged food from city hall vending machines obesity in city workers there would go down. It did not. It went up. (Have you looked in the mirror Mr. mayor?) Researchers said if the town of Concord MA banned the sale of bottled water that the amount of plastic picked up by the city for recycling would go down. It did not. It went up. Every bump in the state cigarette tax has been preceeded with a prediction that it would reduce smoking. Until the recession hit taxes did little to reduce the number of smokers in the US. Increases in state taxes in liquor was supposed to reduce the number of alcoholics. It did not. Increased state excise taxes on SUVs was supposed to reduce the number of them on the road. The recession and higher gas prices did a far better job at that. Time and again studies claim if we ban something or tax something a given problem will go away. The reality is the nanny state cannot fix human nature.
I was with you right until you mentioned food stamps. If you had not heard, the food stamp program has been rolled into the EBT debit card program years ago. In 2011 almost $1 billion in EBT funds were used in casinos across the nation. Almost half a billion in the California EBT program alone. Sorry if this sounds politically incorrect, but if they can afford to use their EBT cards to take out cash in a casino ATM, they can afford to eat better.
The drug lords, corporations, media, etc. are financing (nicer term than bribing, right?) our elected 'representatives' to keep the population distracted and uninformed about what's really happening. Honestly, they could probably tell the truth at this point and it wouldn't make much difference, most of us have become accustomed to not believing what we hear on the news anyway.
There are places where the poor and unemployed can get foodingredient packages that contain flour, sugar, bread etc. These packages are decided upon by various organizations, but they all follow government guidelines. And surprise, surprise, the guideline in question has nothing to do with health, only cost.
I agree completely with this post. For years my wife's side of the family meets up at a local fast food joint every week for lunch. Why? Well, they said it's because the kids can play in the attached play gym. Hmmm. I wonder what the parents are teaching their kids? Do you think the kids are learning to associate burgers fries and soft drinks, which by most measures are horrible for them, with happiness and memories of playing in a cool indoor playhouse? Those clever fast food companies have figured out a long time ago that if you can hook them early, they are customers for life. I made my argument years ago to one of the adults and it was as if I was looking at her with two heads. She didn't even seem to comprehend the possibility that these kids could be establishing patterns of eating that would stick with them the rest of their lives. Multiply that one family by millions of others and there you have a recipe for a health care and financial disaster which is being played out in the U.S. like a slow motion movie.
Massachusetts has seen a tidal wave of such taxes over the past 5 years, yet obesity among every target group has continued to climb. I agree with others here that it all starts with parenting. Science has proven that rarely is being obese genetic. But there is an overwhelming amount of research pointing to poor education and poor parenting being at the heart of the obesity epidemic.
Yea the simple mined model is not working. A increase in price can create an increase in demand not an intuitive concept for those who have had economics and in any case even if demand is down the result assumed is not delivered! The problem root cause is unknown the stupidity here is the assumption of the solution (oh its so simple mentality).
most people prefer to be uninformed, because information leads to thinking, and thinking is hard work for most people. Even more so on an empty stomach.
And that's EXACTLY the reason newspapers are going down the drain (like the Denver Post). All pap, all progressive line, no "who, what, when, where and why". It's not the internet causing it - I'd much rather sit with a newspaper and a cup of coffee - I'd even pay for it, but when everything is either society pap or non-factual, I'm not going to do it. Evidently a lot of others feel the same way - no one believes it.
I doubt if the eating habits will stick with them for the rest of their lives, tastes do change. It all comes down to self discipline, doesn't it? This is just another way of raising funds for government programs! We don't need more taxes, we need these "experts" to go away and study something more important, such as why the government spends way more than they take in (maybe too many studies paid for by government?), and why there are tax cheats and how to catch them, or people renouncing thier citizenship to avoid taxes...)