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Fat tax

A fat tax is a tax or surcharge that is placed upon fattening food, beverages or on overweight individuals. It is considered an example of Pigovian taxation. A fat tax aims to discourage unhealthy diets and offset the economic costs of obesity.

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Molly Hebzynski English 1201 Sect. 05 Mr. Carr 4 November 2013 Winning the Wrong Title The United States is the world’s second most overweight country. In 2013 the United States lost the title of the most overweight country in the world by only 1% to Mexico (Mexico Beats US to Be World’s Fattest Country – but We’re Still a Close second). There is a way to solve the rise of obesity in America. Creating a federal tax on junk food would help to slow the rise of obesity. The tax on cigarettes in the United States caused the amount of smokers to decline to 50% in little over 10 years; likewise the people of America can see a significant drop in obesity too with a federal tax on junk food. With an imposed tax on junk food buyers would be more inclined to buy fresh produce. A proposed federal tax on junk food can be used towards the United Sates mounting healthcare bills. It is not shocking America’s healthcare is so expensive because 31.8% of the population is obese (Mexico Beats US to Be World’s Fattest Country – but We’re Still a Close second). The United States could lower the price of fresh produce, but this may cause a strain on farmers. Creating the federal tax on junk food will motivate parents to buy healthier food for their children so the children can perform better in school. With an increase in physical activity for children it still will not be enough to stop childhood obesity. For all these reasons, I am in favor of a higher tax on junk food to help decrease obesity in the United States. Obesity is a growing risk in America and it is not seen at or regulated at the same level of government as cigarettes are. The taxes on cigarettes have a significant impact on those who buy them because of the increase of price per pack. Since the early 2000s the government has put a federal tax on cigarettes raising the prices by one to two dollars per pack. Those who began smoking before the age of 18 are 5-15% more likely to quit smoking with this new tax placement; those who began smoking after 18 are 3-7% more likely to quit (Huang, Marr, and Ruffini). Not only does this tax increase lower the amount of smokers but it also creates a self-control device for those who are buying them. The buyers must decide if they have enough money to spend on the cigarettes, how many are they willing to buy, and if they really need them. If the United States added a federal tax on junk food it could have the same effect. By adding this tax a self-control device is created; the consumers must decide if they are willing to pay extra for this fattening food and how often they are willing to pay for it. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years. With a similar tax proposal, like cigarettes, America could see a 5-15% decrease in those under 18 fighting obesity. This tax would enforce everyone to make healthier eating choices and would result in America’s obesity declining. My opponents oppose adding a federal tax to junk food. While adding a federal tax to junk food is a possible solution, a cigarette tax is much different than a fat tax. Cigarettes are someone’s choice whereas food is a necessity. Anyone can buy healthy foods but some are bound to buy the addicting junk food substances. The United States is a free country and for that reason people should be allowed to eat what they like without having to pay extra. In the article written by Peter Taylor, You can’t tax yourself thin, “people in Denmark tried to tax unhealthy food but it fell through within in almost a year. Food items that contained more than 2.3% saturated fats were taxed at approximately $3.00 per kilogram of fat” (Taylor). One of the largest problems Denmark faced was that some foods that were considered ‘unhealthy’ were in fact healthy. For example a jar of jalapenos preserved in oil were taxed because the oil itself surpassed the 2.3% saturated fat mark, but the jalapenos were less then 2.3%. Consumers were upset because the price increased due to how the healthy foods were packaged, because the oil is a preservative not the food itself. Just because the United States put a tax on a cigarettes and it worked, does not mean that we should tax junk food expecting it to work also. Just like cigarettes, junk food is a choice we all make; junk food isn’t a necessity. Junk food is just as addicting and harmful as cigarettes and most American’s don’t realize this. According to Slimmer’s, a proven dietary plan to help people lose weight claims, “the intensity of urges to gorge on junk food is comparable with an addiction to cigarettes or alcohol” (Le Marie). Furthermore, federal tax on junk food will decrease the rates of obesity in America. One of the reasons why Denmark’s junk food tax fell through so quickly was because Denmark is the world champion of taxes” (Taylor). The Danish government aborted the taxation on junk food because of angry and dissatisfied citizens. On another note, more than one-quarter of health care costs are now related to obesity (Lang, Levi, and Segal). According to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation there are health statistics to show how a tax could benefit consumers. “The results reveal that obesity is now responsible for 9.1 percent of annual medical expenditures, compared with 6.5 percent in 1998. The results also showed that an obese person has $1,429 per year more medical costs, or about 42 percent more costs, than someone of normal weight” (Lang, Levi, and Segal). With a tax on junk food the annual medical expense could decrease by 2% in 10 years. With less money being spent on those suffering from obesity we can put more money towards the research of other diseases. In the past ten years there has been an escalation in diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. An article from Robert Wood Johnson foundation helps to prove this statement, “If states’ obesity rates continue on their current trajectories, the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, hypertension and arthritis could increase 10 times between 2010 and 2020—and double again by 2030” (Lang, Levi, and Segal). America’s fast rise of these health conditions is alarming. By putting a tax on junk food, consumers will make the smarter decision to buy healthier. This way they won’t end up at the doctors as often for obesity related health concerns. Even though healthcare is a necessity, obesity will never reach 0% in America. Trying to save more money to put towards other diseases won’t solve the one disease that is going to destroy America today and that is obesity. I think America needs to put more money into obesity research to help those gaining excessive weight return back to a normal weight. With more money in the healthcare system for obesity, hospitals can provide weight training programs and seminars on how to live a healthier lifestyle. Instead of enforcing a tax on consumers, Americans need to be educated on how dangerous obesity can be. America will see a return in money once weight training programs and seminars are enforced that will lower obesity in America. While this may be true, the United States is already spending over $147 billion dollars on healthcare annually (Lang, Levi, and Segal). Increasing the amount of money put into healthcare would only hurt America in the long run. Adding new weight training programs and classes about how to live a healthier lifestyle won’t have an immediate affect. The programs could fail within less than a year because people won’t make the time to go to the classes. A federal tax on junk food would have an immediate affect on all consumers. Everyone must eat, but not everyone is forced to go to weight training programs or healthier living classes. Spending more money on obesity will increase the problem rather than solve it. Some might suggest decreasing the price of fresh produce instead of increasing the tax on junk food would solve America’s obesity concerns. By lowering the price of fresh produce this would create more revenue for farmers and also buyers will be more interested in the healthy foods. Since the fresh produce is cheaper the consumers will be more likely to pick the fresh produce over the junk food. A tax should not control people to decide whether or not they can afford the food. By decreasing the price of fresh produce we are allowing the consumers to make a healthier decision themselves, which will benefit the consumer in the long run. Although a decrease in price of fresh produce will create more revenue for farmers, farmers may not be able to keep up the demand. The farmers will need to create more food to sustain the growing demand for fresh produce. Farmers may not have the means to plant more or deliver more fresh produce. The farmers would have to supply more fresh produce in order to make up for the loss of revenue. Farmers will have to spend more time, effort, and money in order to keep up with sales, which will eventually catch up to them. I don’t believe that a decrease in the price of fresh produce will help the decline of obesity in America. Children who eat healthier have the ability to learn information easier and test better (Voiland). Researcher Arthur Agatson saw significant increases in math scores among the 1,197 elementary students who participated in the Healthier Options for Public Schoolchildren obesity prevention program, an intervention currently used in 79 schools in seven states. This two-year program also lowered their weight and blood pressure (Voiland). School lunches are taking a stand against obesity, why doesn’t the entire United States join along? One of the reasons why childhood obesity has heightened so quickly over the past couple of years is because parents do not realize the unhealthy food that they are buying for their children. The junk food tax will motivate parents to buy healthier foods for their children so they can perform better in school. Obesity is a rising problem among children, teenagers and adults today. America is one the most overweight countries in the world. We are a talented country; we don’t want to be known as the fattest country. On the contrary, increasing physical activity may be a better solution to childhood obesity. Parents are not always going to make the correct decision as to what is healthy to eat. Several states have required school lunches to be healthier, but students can still bring homemade lunches filled with junk food. If schools would allow for more physical education or a physical activity report every week America could see a drop in childhood obesity. A federal tax will not help parents decide what they should buy their kids. Although increasing physical education or having physical activity reports due every week may help solve childhood obesity more will need to be done to solve obesity in America. Parents may give into their children but that is why the government needs to inform the United States citizen of what they are choosing to eat. By having healthier school lunches parents may begin to realize that their children need to eat healthy at school and at home. With a federal tax on junk food, parents are being informed on what they are buying for their children and how they can reduce buying junk food. By creating a federal tax on junk food buyers will have less desire to buy unhealthy food, the source of the problem. Focusing on a federal tax, like cigarettes, would have a quick and significant impact on obesity. With a decrease in junk food sales it will also decrease the amount of money Americans put into the healthcare system for obesity. The following arguments made about lowering fresh produce costs, education on healthier foods, and increased physical activity at schools would help decrease America’s obesity, but I feel that implementing a federal tax will be the most beneficial way to lower the obesity rate in the United States. As a result, I am in favor of a higher taxation on junk food. We, as Americans need to take action on the rise of obesity in America, today, before we reclaim the title of world’s most overweight country.

Contributed by Molly Heb

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