Taxing unhealthy foods not effective

Opinions Columnist | Healthcare Adminstration Senior

Taxing fatty foods and sugary drinks is not the best route to curbing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions among a population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34.9 percent of adults in the United States are obese, and obesity among adolescents has more than tripled in the past 30 years. High obesity rates are associated with illnesses that affect the cost of healthcare for everyone. It would be absolutely ridiculous for the American government to sit back and do nothing to curb obesity. However, the methods that the government has adopted in an attempt to reduce these health issues are just as ridiculous.

According to a Jan. 1 Politico article, in recent years, more than 30 American cities and states have tried taxing sodas recently and all have failed. According to a Nov. 4, 2013 CNN article, in 2011, Denmark became the first country to tax foods with saturated fats. Danish consumers, in an effort to save money, visited Germany and Sweden to buy their groceries. Because of this, grocers and butchers in Denmark were hit by low sales. Consumers and business owners alike rejoiced when the tax was scrapped less than a year later.

Taxing fatty foods and sugary drinks is not how governments should handle obesity rates and control the cost of health care. There are other related issues that can be improved upon if American lawmakers truly want to reduce the nation’s obesity epidemic. A great place to start, for example, would be ensuring that grade school students are provided with healthy cafeteria lunches every day.

Of course, many people feel that taxing fatty foods and sugary drinks is a great idea. According to a Nov. 17, 2012 Economist article, in Denmark, many public health advocates felt that politicians placed the economy above public health when they repealed the saturated fat tax. I do have to give the concept credit as money generated from junk food taxes does have the ability to benefit a population. However, I think there are better ways to curb high rates of diabetes and heart disease.

People need not be taxed for every risky behavior available to them. Under the Affordable Care Act, consumers are now taxed 10 percent for indoor tanning services. Not every indoor tanner frequents the service enough to develop cancer and, because of this, all indoor tanners should not be penalized for using this service. Likewise, I am a responsible grocery shopper and I care for my health. I should not be penalized with a tax for the occasional splurge on a soda and bacon cheeseburger. If fatty foods and sugary drinks are taxed, the healthy consumer will feel an unfair burden. Nonetheless, I cannot imagine that many people are going to opt for water because the prices at a vending machine have risen by several cents.

Everyone should make the time and effort to adopt healthy lifestyles without government incentives. Everyone should be physically active and eating healthy should be a universal habit. Whole grains and vegetables are not that much more expensive than purchasing fast food. It is nothing more than an excuse when people claim that they do not have the time to eat healthy. Despite this problem, trying to tax people into submission to a healthy lifestyle is clearly ineffective.