We Bite Back

The Fat Tax
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Author:  epic [ Tue Jul 28, 2009 12:39 pm ]
Post subject:  The Fat Tax

Put any articles on here related to governments deciding they want to tax obese/overweight people in some way or another... because I'm seeing lots of articles of this sort lately.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster ... hcare.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/07/27 ... 2172.shtml

Any thoughts?

Author:  Spender [ Tue Jul 28, 2009 12:56 pm ]
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increasing the price of unhealthy foods "would be effective" at combating the nation's obesity problem...policies that would reduce the cost of healthy foods would effectively bring down obesity rates.

Interestingly enough, these are two very different concepts; there seems to be a belief that taxing one thing will reduce the cost of an entirely different thing, a proposition for which there is no evidence presented.

I actually don't have an issue with taxing items as a way of influencing social change. It is a long-established pattern in tax administration, and you have only to look as far as the tax on tobacco and correspondingly reduced rates of tobacco usage to see how effective it can be. We already pay GST on "junk" foods in Canada (unless you buy 6 or more...somehow the increased quantity turns junk into groceries...), and people in provinces with a harmonised sales tax pay provincial tax as well on junk food.

It is also truly a big revenue generator. At a time when government revenues are tanking as a result of economic collapse, these kinds of taxes may reduce the rate at which essentials are taxed, or slow down the increase. This means more public services are preserved, things like health care and education and social assistance.

Author:  Kaz [ Tue Jul 28, 2009 3:35 pm ]
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Here in Boston, adding taxes to the sodas and candy and such has been mentioned for a while...

My take on it could be torn. On the one hand, it might continue to cause misunderstandings as far as the foods and drinks are concerned, meaning, it might label them as "bad"...which is something we all know can cause issues of its own.

On the other hand, society has become addicted to sodas on the most-part and use it in excess, thus making it unhealthy (still not "bad" though.)

Author:  ashleigh [ Tue Jul 28, 2009 8:18 pm ]
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There was a similar sort of thing going to happen in australia, just not as harsh.
They were going to use taxpayers money, to pay for gym memberships for obese people.
Their point being that not everyone can afford one to become fit and loose weight.
In my opinion, if you want to exercise and loose weight you should go for a walk. No need to spend un necissary money on gym memberships. Im a chronic exerciser and Ive never had a gym membership in my life. no need.

I think the idea of taxing their food is ridiculous.

Author:  epic [ Tue Jul 28, 2009 8:21 pm ]
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ashleigh wrote:
I think the idea of taxing their food is ridiculous.

Seems like a way to mask a famine situation or economic collapse (that results in food shortages). Heck... there was rationing in World War II. History never repeats itself, but it rhymes.

Author:  marybeth [ Tue Jul 28, 2009 11:02 pm ]
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Just a thought, what about the people who are obese but can't help it? That are plagued with disorders causing them to be overweight?

Author:  Spender [ Tue Jul 28, 2009 11:31 pm ]
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Well, I may be a cynic but I just can't see the taxing of junk foods as a harbinger of economic collapse. Tax policy is the most essential of social policy theory in our society and what gets taxed has a huge impact on personal, social and economic behaviour. The taxing of junk food - long overdue. We tax liquor and tobacco without apology, both of which involve addictive behaviour, and the failure to tax junk foods - foods of little or no nutritional value - is a travesty.

The big debate in tax policy is not whether to tax junk food; that is a given. The debate is how you define it. Federal tax defines it in part based on quantity; if you are buying food at a restaurant or "one person" fast foods, like candy and chips and baked goods, they are taxed. If you buy groceries or 6 or more of a taxable item, they are not taxed. An imperfect system, but one which is transparent (if unpopular) and easy to administer.

The time to start worrying is if governments move to taxing basic groceries; then I'll be there with you on the protest lines.

Author:  Lizibitz [ Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:49 pm ]
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Author:  nachtigallen [ Sat Aug 01, 2009 6:18 am ]
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Something interesting I found out recently, in the U.S. ( Illinois specifically) one can't purchase items the government has labeled "junk food" with food stamps, nor can you purchase alcohol. I have been wondering if this policy has made any noticeable impact on the health of those using food stamps, and also I was kind of weirded out that the government has had the ability to more or less make certain foods "illegal" for the socioeconomically disadvantaged to obtain.

Author:  Lizibitz [ Sun Aug 02, 2009 1:53 pm ]
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Author:  epic [ Sun Aug 02, 2009 2:05 pm ]
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High fructose corn syrup is put into most processed foods.

Sucralose is put into many processed foods, and in some the addition of it is worded differently to hide what it is.

If food processors were forced to use better quality ingredients, it may allow people's bodies to process the food better rather than turning it to fat stores more readily. Then the gov't would be taxing those who try to skimp on quality in production... not punish those who fall victim to their bodies being unable to handle the artificial and heavily refined sugars.

Say for example if processors were to use cane sugar instead of HFCS. They won't make these changes unless they are told they have to. Would that cause some food processors to go out of business? Perhaps... but the ones who stayed would be in it because they were able/willing to change to improve food quality for the masses. Then obesity population would subside.

Are food stamps used to buy food that contains HFCS? Or is that not enough in itself to earn the "junk food" rating?

Author:  Lizibitz [ Mon Aug 03, 2009 1:14 pm ]
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Author:  wickedrache [ Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:27 pm ]
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i love the notion of banning HFCS. i hope that happens soon. i think if i were launching a major public health campaign that would be one of the top priorities. and i agree with Lizbits - no problem at all with the taxation of "entertainment" foods, or with their exclusion from food-stamp programs, provided those standards are reasonable.

Author:  Spender [ Mon Aug 03, 2009 4:06 pm ]
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Funny...I do have a bit of an issue with the food stamp restrictions; probably for the same reason that I give junkies change when I know they are going to use it to buy drugs instead of food. People are doing what they can to survive; for some people that involves drugs, for others, food. Far be it from me, of all people, to pass judgment on someone else's consumption habits when I am hardly a shining example of "healthy" eating, even if I never eat junk.

A tax on junk food would actually discourage the use of food stamps by adding a cost to foods that are unhealthy without raising the spectre of big brother looking over our shoulders. Should low income families be prevented from buying chips and pop for a child's birthday party, using food stamps? Paying tax would be different, though, because everyone would pay a tax on junk food. Similarly, it does not prevent food banks from offering a healthier diet, which also supports low income people.

Anyway. Interesting discussion.

Author:  Rachelr [ Tue Aug 04, 2009 12:53 pm ]
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All these so-called "fat taxes" we're hearing about having absolutely nothing to do with weight and everything to do with profits. New York's proposal of an "obesity tax" on non-diet soft drinks would generate an estimated $404 million a year, a hefty sum when you consider that New York faced a $15 billion budget gap at the time the bill was proposed.

I'm wary of government acting in loco parentis as a rule, but considering the correlations between unsweetened soda and health issues, including diabetes (problems all ignored by designating it solely as an "obesity" issue), I have no problems with a proposed tax on soda itself, especially since unlike food, soda isn't essential for life (caffeine addicts may beg to differ). What I have a problem with is in calling it an "obesity" tax, as if fat people, both current and future, are the only consumers of sweetened soda. Most fat people I know drink diet soda out of self-consciousness and/or because they're forever dieting. And drinking diet soda might help reduce one's sugar intake and consumption of empty calories, but it remains to be seen if it will actually result in weight loss. In fact, one recent study claims that drinking diet soft drinks does just the opposite -- it encourages weight gain.

If the goal of the "obesity" tax is to improve health, government subsidies of fruits and vegetables make for far better public policy than taxing a cheap source of calories. If the goal of the tax is to generate funds for a state in a spiraling financial deficit, then call it as it is and don't scapegoat fat people in the process. Here's a novel idea: How about calling it a "soda" tax? Yes, yes... crazy, I know.

It does mean that taxpayer money spent on food is meant for nourishment as much as controllable. I think that is fair.

I would be for enacting restrictions on the use of food stamps for only food that actually contains some nutritional value, but we simply can't do this so long as there remains such a wide disparity in food costs. Calorie-for-calorie, processed foods and other "unhealthy" foods are much cheaper and when you're on public assistance, you need to make your dollar stretch as far as it can go. We either need to make healthy foods more affordable by insisting upon change in the federal farm bill or enact the restrictions but also increase the amount of aid given to poor people for food.

If food processors were forced to use better quality ingredients, it may allow people's bodies to process the food better rather than turning it to fat stores more readily. Then the gov't would be taxing those who try to skimp on quality in production... not punish those who fall victim to their bodies being unable to handle the artificial and heavily refined sugars.

Uhh.. you do know that in the U.S., at least, the government is the largest subsidizer of HFCS, right? The government makes far too much money off HFCS by subsidizing it than it does by taxing it, so a ban on HFCS? Ain't gonna happen.

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