With obesity on the rise, many have pointed fingers towards sugary snacks and unhealthy convenience foods. This led to policymakers implementing ‘junk food tax’ on food items such as sodas, chocolates, and candy. The desired outcome is that individuals would buy fewer of these ‘less healthy’ products, leading to a decrease in obesity among the population. But is it working the way they hoped? Read on to find out.
Whether the government should take responsibility in the fight against obesity, is a divisive issue. Some feel that food choices should not be controlled by politics, while others feel that taxes should be implemented.
Denmark was the first country to implement ‘fat tax’ in 2011. Foods that were taxed included meat, oil, and dairy products. The idea was to increase the price of fattening foods, as a means to discouraged shoppers to indulge too much. While the sale of these products did decrease by 10-20%, authorities are not quite sure whether it actually had an influence on the public’s health. Nonetheless, other countries followed, and within the same year, France also implemented a fat tax – this time on sugary drinks. Hungary included additional snacks such as chips and chocolates in their fat tax.
The major idea of these taxes is to curb obesity and improve the population’s health. So far, it does seem to work. One study showed that the price increase in unhealthy products did make people think twice before they buy.
But critics of the taxes say that this decrease in sales cannot be attributed to the imposed tax. In fact, they feel that as with many taxes, the ones that will be affected the most, are the poorer communities. There are several reasons why people often opt for junk food, instead of healthier options. People might not have access to fresh, healthy foods at their local store. And if they do, it is often more expensive than less nutritious, calorie-dense foods.
Consumers may also be strapped for time, not able to cook fresh meals at home. So they are more likely to buy fast food. All these factors mean that individuals with lower-income are still limited in terms of their options. If unhealthy food is the only option in these communities, then making these foods more expensive, will ultimately hit them the hardest. Instead of making junk food more expensive, the best approach might be to make healthy food less expensive.
Other opposers of fat tax, have also stated that diet is only one aspect of a healthier lifestyle. They propose that other factors should also be stressed. These include frequent exercise, stress management, and quality sleep. Therefore, there are a number of contributing factors that will influence consumers’ health. Government-subsidized fruits and vegetables, consumer education, and revised marketing campaigns, could well be a better intervention than merely imposing a fat tax.
What do you think of ‘junk food tax’ or ‘fat tax’? Tell us below!