Fans of a “Fat Tax” Will Be Saddened by the News From Denmark

(Photo: ebru)

The other day, Levitt and I participated in a brainstorming session on how to fight childhood obesity, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (FWIW, we recorded the event and will try to turn it into a podcast.)

One topic that got a lot of traction was a targeted tax on sugary drinks and fatty foods. (This is often called a “fat tax” but should not be confused with a tax on overweight people.) Many people in the session were in favor of the idea but a few were skeptical, primarily because such a tax will be tricky to implement well. One objection that I was surprised no one raised: the simple fact that taxpayers might hate the tax and rebel against it to the point where it becomes politically and economically impossible.

In support of the idea, one person reminded us that Denmark recently instituted a “fat tax” on  foods containing more than 2.3 percent of saturated fat.

Talk about bad timing! Writing in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Clemens Bomsdorf informs us that:

Danish lawmakers have killed a controversial “fat tax” one year after its implementation, after finding its negative effect on the economy and the strain it has put on small businesses far outweigh the health benefits. …

Products such as butter, oil, sausage, cheese and cream were subject to increases of as much as 9% immediately after the new tax was enacted.

“What made consumers upset was probably that an extra tax was put on a natural ingredient,” said Sinne Smed, a professor at the Institute of Food and Resource Economics.

The fat tax comes to an end after netting an estimated €170 million ($216 million) in 2012 in new revenue. Danish lawmakers will slightly raise income taxes and reduce personal tax deductions to offset the lost revenue. The lawmakers also decided on Saturday to reverse an earlier decision to create a sugar tax.

Does this mean the idea of a fat tax isn’t viable here? Hardly. But, regardless of your view of the issue itself, this is yet another  example of how long-term policy can be affected by the short-term state of the economy. New taxes are rarely popular but that is especially true when many of the world’s economies are still trying to climb out of a deep trough.

Fans of the idea should console themselves: in the years it will take to refine, experiment with, and wrestle over a U.S. fat tax policy, our economy will probably be booming again!

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COMMENTS: 71


  1. Baughman says:

    The US insurance system causes obesity. It’s too easy to be obese, with the associated high costs of medical care, because the obese person doesn’t fully internalize the cost of her obesity. In other words, she imposes an externality on the rest of us.

    The solution: internalize the externality. Make health insurance what it was intended to be: protection against catastrophic loss. High deductibles will make people more aware and more responsive to the costs they incur. Insurance premiums should be tied to waist size, much like they consider in the US life insurance market.

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    • Jens F! says:

      Denmark has universal health care, paid exclusively tax, with no deductable. As such, a fat-tax is a way of making obese people pay the cost for being obese.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 12
    • Nil says:

      The obese (and smokers as well) have lower lifetime healthcare costs than healthy individuals. While an obese person might rack up healthcare costs sooner, a healthy individual racks up several years of much higher costs later on. The truly expensive health care cases are people who spend decades with various organs and body parts slowly failing and requiring more surgeries and more prescriptions, or those whose mind goes years before their body and who require 5 or 10 years of round the clock care. Those who are obese/smokers simply don’t tend live long enough to be nearly as expensive.

      The obese & smokers are more expensive to employers and themselves because they are more likely to require expensive treatment during their working lifespan. Because of that timing they pay more out of pocket costs than healthy individuals who are able to push their larger medical costs out into their retirement years when the rest of society is forced to pick up a bigger share.

      Health care costs are one major area where moral hazard is backwards. Living a healthy lifestyle will give you extra years of life, but everyone will die from something. The healthier you are the more medical procedures and the more years of nursing home living you can survive which usually costs a lot more money in the end.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 42 Thumb down 13
      • JesusFreak says:

        You make a lot of assertions there. Can you cite sources to back them?

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 10
    • JAM says:

      I agree with your assertion to internalize the externality. The best way to accomplish this is the get the government out of our lives it many places it doesn’t belong and let the price signal help to guide our individual decisions.

      The government subsidizes and mandates health care options for many, distorting the price signal which can contribute to inefficient lifestyle choices. The government subsidizes food production of various types further distorting the price signal effecting decisions on what we put into our bodies.

      The best thing government can do is provide information and then get out of the way to let people weigh their own decisions.

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    • Hominid says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • miriam says:

      Let’s see– fat people are viewed as less attractive, make less money, have trouble using equipment/ facilities for their normal weight peers. I’d say the cost is pretty internalized…
      I don’t see where having one’s metformin and knee replacement covered by insurance removes the disincentive to be overweight. I’ve heard a similar argument that there is no incentive to quit smoking since the cost of your COPD treatment and/ or lung cancer are covered by insurance– the fact that they do not suffer a monetary penalty for developing these conditions does not mean that these conditions aren’t fully “internalized”.

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      • baughman says:

        My neighbor is a doctor. We often talk about the economics of health care. He is fascinated with the fact that many of those with Type 2 diabetes could reverse their diabetes by dropping a few pounds. I think the number he quoted was 20lbs.

        But the majority of his patients are too stubborn to lose the 20lbs. As a result, they require frequent trips to the doctor and expensive insulin medicine. The true cost of hundreds of dollars per month.

        In a world with only catastrophic insurance (say 10k deductible/year), are you telling me that a few thousand dollars of insulin/treatment savings is insufficient to incentivize someone to hop on a treadmill, eat broccoli, and lose a trivial 20lbs? Think about this world. It’s a world in which individuals are accountable for their actions. No medicaid to fall back on…you can’t just quit your job, become income-poor, and qualify for medicaid and food stamps. So it’s 1.) pay thousands of dollars / year, 2.) die, or 2.) lose a few pounds. My money says people hop on that treadmill once the costs are internalized.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2
  2. Michael says:

    One of the biggest problems is that the tax is flawed as it focuses not on sugar but on fat, nor does it distinguish between different kinds of fats. Some fats are good for you. Butter, bacon, coconut (very high in sat fat) these are all very healthy items. Why should they be taxed?

    Conversely sweets are awful for children’s health, as is corn, corn syrup, barley malt etc.

    The problem is that govts don’t want to target these because they are so economical, subsidised and have massive lobbying power and even your basic can of tomato soup would be taxed.

    I we want to protect children from obesity we need to first understand the real causes, these are not ‘fats’ (fat doesn’t make you fat) but sugar and corn syrup etc. As such any tax not focused on the real enemy (sugar) is a waste of time anyway.

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    • Stephen says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • Michael says:

        Fat in itself doesn’t make you fat, overeating it will. (just as overeating brocoli will) Furthermore looking at fat from a purely calorific standpoint is over simplistic and misleading. You need to look at what happens to the calorie once ingested. Take your example above, 10 cals of fat from say coconut cream is completely different to 10 cals from a sugary drink.

        Gary Taubes is a nice source for this, calories do count of course but the type of calorie counts just as much. As of course does gut health, inflammation, insulin response etc.

        I’d be happy to test this with you. You take in 2500 cals from pasta, sugary drinks, sweets every day and I’ll take the same in from coconut, butter and bacon without exercise and at the end of the year we’ll see who has the six pack. And who looks like death.

        So no, healthy fats are good for you and they don’t make you fat. So go enjoy that bacon, butter, animal fat, coconut milk, heavy whipped cream and live your life to the full. Just hope that Govts the world over who have no idea about nutrition and health (hence how obese everyone is even though they go to the gym more than ever before and follow Govt health guidelines) trey to tax health foods on basic misunderstanding.

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      • Armando says:

        Gary Taubes? Seriously? His “research” has been shown to have 0 validity.

        Sugar doesn’t make you fat any more than eating fat does.

        It’s really quite simple – burn more than you eat. Then you will not get fat. Doesn’t matter where the calories come from (simply from a weight standpoint).

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 24 Thumb down 24
      • Nikki says:

        Surprise, surprise: the crowd is rooting for whoever says that the road to a six-pack is paved with bacon and zero exercise. It does appear that obesity isn’t about food.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 9
    • Clancy says:

      To everyone who has and will reply to this comment:

      I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5
      • Michael says:

        It certainly is more complicated and we could talk about food allergies, intolerance and all kinds of issues including economics and social but I was answering a question on fat counting more g than protein and therefore fat making one fat.

        I might have answered that LCD televisions contain more calories than a coffee machine and therefore by that logic LCD TVs make one fat but I didn’t want to be glib :)

        What isn’t at question however is that Govts need to focus on the real issues, and understand the difference between different types of fat, their relationship to heart disease (cholesterol for example which they seem to have no idea about) and focus on sugar.

        They have fallen into the trap (as have many) that a food item on a shelf labelled ‘low fat’ is healthier than full fat. A bag of sugar could be labelled as ‘Zero Fat’ but that doesn’t make it healthier than a coconut or a few rashers of bacon.

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    • tmeier says:

      My own experience is sweets incline you to over-eat. They leave you wanting more, I don’t know if the effect is psychological or physiological but I see it in myself and my family. It seems to only be sugar, that is, sugar from sugarcane which is the problem. Sweet fruits or honey don’t have the same effect.

      Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4
    • Scott says:

      Michael makes an excellent point. Fat has been demonized in this country for close to 4 decades. Prior to this, it was common knowledge that reducing sugars and starches resulted in weight loss. In fact, earlier cookbooks for diabetics recommended eating natural fats and vegetables as these do not cause spikes in blood sugar levels and hence insulin, the primary hormone responsible for fat storage. The American Diabetes Association creates a disservice to those most in need of its advice…it recommends carbs such as whole grains that cause blood sugar to spike.

      In fact, taxing fats sends the wrong message. If you are not eating fat (healthy, natural saturated fats such as those found in coconut oil, butter, bacon, meats, fish, etc) then it is common to replace those calories with obesity causing carbs.

      If you want to encourage eating that will reduce obesity, policy needs to focus on the cause of obesity. It is not necessarily overeating, it is eating food that causes fat storage in the body. Those foods are carbs such as sugars and starches. Natural saturated fat is not the cause.

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    • Elliot says:

      Taxing sugar would make more economical sense if the government does not intend to fight obesity. Sugar is vey prevalent and more addictive than fat. Even diet soda can cause someone to crave sugar. So he’ll need sugar to stave off withdrawal from the substance he’s been deprived of. Demand for sugar, like drugs and booze, is interminable

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  3. Joe says:

    Crossing my fingers for that podcast.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3
  4. David says:

    The line that jumps out at me is: “Danish lawmakers will slightly raise income taxes and reduce personal tax deductions to offset the lost revenue.”

    So was the point of the tax to encourage better eating habits, or to get scrounge for money by going after a “fat target” that was thought to be socially acceptable to attack? If the tax does work to modify behavior, then the tax revenues will drop over time (as well as income tax on profits from the fat producers and sellers), and if they’ve gotten used to that money, then either the rate goes up, or there’s a new target, and the cycle continues.

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    • TCB MD says:

      There are a few core issues:

      1) People are fat because there’s currently ahuge profit motive in both the production and sale of calories.
      2) From an evolutionary standpoint humans NEVER had abundant, easy to reach calories. High fat – you had to catch some creature swimming in the ocean. High sugar – in a tree or protected by bees. We are programmed to consume as many of these high quality calories as possible but that was for an environment very different from our current obesigenic one.
      3) Scientist (yes I’m one) are wrong all the time, but that doesn’t justify the nonsense perpetrated by quacks and corporations. Margarine over butter made sense until the discovery of the health consequences of trans fat. But the scientific truths are always more complicated than what the media or general public understand. In fact, nature even makes certain trans fats (milk, avocado, meat) that are GOOD for you (promote healthier lipid profiles and lean muscle mass) but that’s a hard message to convey to a fairly science ignorant population.
      4) Vegetable oil is another generic term of ignorance. There’s a huge difference between corn/soybean versus olive. Not to mention our exceptional seed oils (flax/safflower/canola) but the government SUBSIDIZES the production of corn/soybean (bad oils).
      5) Taxing simple sugars and unhealthy fats isn’t a nanny state protecting us from ourselves. It would be government protecting us from a government-industrial complex (decades in the making), that NEEDS people to consume unhealthy foods to support profits. The same people professing limited government, personal responsibility tripe line up every few years to reauthorize the Farm Bill.

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  5. Mike B says:

    A fat tax should not be intended to prevent obesity,but to societal cost of obesity. It is never in government’s best interest to go down the nanny state route to protect people from their own choices, however the government should seek to recoup the societal costs of personal choices. If that cost recover helps make people make better choices then so much the better.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6
    • TexCIS says:

      If it is costing “the government” for the poor choices, then it has already gone the “nanny state” route by paying for other people’s poor choices. This state is a nanny who has spoiled the children by letting them eat anything they want, get fat, and make the “parents” pay the cost. In this case the “parents” are the people in society who are working to pay the bills and are making the right health care choices to not get obese and sick.

      Any time a parent disciplines a child, it is “unpopular,” and obese people don’t want the discipline of paying their correct share of health insurance. As long as they cry long and hard enough about it . . . the “parents” will keep paying for their poor choices. Although in this case, the “parents” may not have a choice about it, because the kids can vote on it.

      Kind of makes the responsible citizens into slaves of the irresponsible, doesn’t it?

      Thumb up 8 Thumb down 9
  6. Dani says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Michael says:

      :) Tell me how butter and bacon cause heart disease? Let me quickly preempt that by assuming you’re going to talk about saturated fats and cholesterol. If so….

      It’s not true. Most people suffering heart attacks have low cholesterol. I could point you to plenty of sources but this is a decent one http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/majority-of-hospitalized-heart-75668.aspx

      This is a very interesting article from a highly renowned heart surgeon on the matter, definitely worth reading:

      http://www.sott.net/article/242516-Heart-Surgeon-Speaks-Out-On-What-Really-Causes-Heart-Disease

      People like chris Kresser can give you plenty of info on this. http://chriskresser.com/heartdisease

      Robb Wolf is another source http://robbwolf.com/2009/10/29/cholesterol-we-are-dumb/

      If you’re not talking about cholesterol and high saturated fats causing heart disease and there’s another method then sorry for the above and go ahead, I’ll try and answer that.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 8
    • Denny says:

      Butter was thought to be unhealthy because of all the saturated fats, so for the last few decades we were encouraged to switch to margarine/vegetable oils. Did the people who switched get healthier? No, they were more likely to have heart disease. A few studies later, it turns out that margarine and vegetable oils contain trans fats, which are much worse than saturated fats. People would have been healthier sticking with butter (in moderation). The case againt saturated fat is far from proven anyway.

      I wouldn’t say butter and bacon should be the cornerstones of any diet, but they’re not completely unhealthy foods without any benefits. They can have their place in the right diet. All these “evil” foods can have a place in people’s diets if they control, most importantly, for calories. The real problem – worse than fat, sugar, etc. – is people aren’t controlling their calorie intake.

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      • Michael says:

        I’d agree with most of that, I didn’t say butter or bacon should be a cornerstone but certainly good fats should be, whether you get these from avocados, coconut, bacon, ghee, butter etc doesn’t really matter.

        The problem is that as you say, for years butter etc was demonised and this has had an effect on people attitudes to fat. Same with bacon. Fat = bad. low fat = good. It’s not true and it’s dangerous.

        So now people still believe that eating butter/bacon will lead to heart attacks but eating margarine is healthy when in fact the opposite is true.

        If you want low body fat and to be healthy then keep eating fat and stay away from comedy products like margarine :)

        (and refined/processed nonsense)

        Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4
      • James says:

        The problem isn’t really the butter & bacon, it’s eating large quantities of them, and not doing enough physical exercise (farm labor, for instance) to burn the fats.

        Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5
    • Scott says:

      Michael again is correct. Bacon and butter are not causes of heart disease. There are plenty of solid scientific studies (randomized controlled trials, not observational ones) that show the benefit of consuming natural saturated fats. There is also plenty of evidence showing the harms of increasing your blood sugar and insulin levels from consuming carbs such as grains and starches. Michael provides plenty of links to research and articles demonstrating this.

      If you want to argue that butter and bacon are not healthy, please support your arguments with actual respectable studies.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2
  7. Jim says:

    we already have a ‘fat’ tax since most basic foods (milk, bread, butter, coffee) are sales tax free in the grocery store. while most ‘prepared’ food (tv dinner, take out) is taxed.

    anyways we are fatter than ever and living longer than ever…

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    • Enter your name... says:

      Depends on where you live. I have lived in places that tax candy bars and apples both, and in places that tax neither.

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4
    • James says:

      “anyways we are fatter than ever and living longer than ever…”

      Who exactly is “we” here? I think you’re getting into the fallacy of taking population averages as truth. Even the most casual observation of the US population will show you that only a subset of the population are getting fatter than ever. A different subset – the marathon runners, bikers, and other exercise junkies – are getting fitter than ever. Since getting fit does not increase your weight much over “normal”, and getting fat these days seems to mean getting REALLY fat, the population average says we’re all getting somewhat fat.

      Now I would guess that if you looked at actual data, you’d find that it is the fit subset of the population who’re living longer, and (if in fact there is a lifespan increase after factoring out advanced medical technology), they’re living longer enough to cancel out the premature deaths of the fat subset.

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4
  8. Bjorn Roche says:

    Seriously? We subsidize foods like corn, artificially reducing the price of corn syrup to below the price of refined sugar, and then we want to tax fatty foods? That’s insane.

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  9. Steve Nations says:

    You say “fat tax,” I say “nanny state tax.” No thanks.

    In the book “Wheat Belly” author William Davis makes a good argument that wheat has been modified so greatly over the decades to make it more tolerant of bugs, pests, drought, etc. that it now isn’t very good for you. The body turns it directly into sugar very quickly, so it turns to fat.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5
  10. Eric M. Jones. says:

    I suppose the “Food-Fat Tax” was calculated to pay for some of the healthcare-burdens of fat people. Canada figured out something similar years ago when they imposed exorbitant taxes on cigarettes. The US has followed this plan for cigarettes somewhat, perhaps only haphazardly. At least there is a pretty hefty tax on alcohol.

    Although I applaud the efforts to control people’s behavior by taxes, I think they will be unsuccessful. The only feasible solution is medication. Willpower never worked for anything much.

    Sorry.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3
  11. Morten says:

    Denmark already has a sugar tax. This was a new one that e.g. would tax the sugar in pickle juice. Even though it is discarded.

    The idea was that saturated fats caused heart disease so as the income from the fat tax decreased so would the expenses to heart disease. Unfortunately, the idea that saturated fat has a large and significant impact on heart disease rates have been discredited. Latest focus is on simple sugars and simple carbohydrates. We’ll see how that pans out.

    Basically, we look at the anglophone countries and go “Ew”.
    Personally I think the most effective law to target obesity would be to ban food adverts, same as we do for alcohol and tobacco. You might argue that there are ads for healthy food but they are exceedingly rare.
    I don’t see how we can do anything about people being sedentary however. Which is probably the biggest single threat (according to current research).

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1
  12. Alex in chicago says:

    We could let kids bully fat kids and get away with it. “The fat kid exemption”

    There is an incentive

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5
  13. Ryan says:

    I think we should look at this from the opposite angle. To my, mostly ignorant of the topic, understanding, a good start would be not a tax, but a removal of a subsidy. My theory (frail as it is) goes as such – stop subsidizing corn production and thus make foods/drinks/etc filled with corn syrup more expensive. What are the unintended consequences here?

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    • Michael says:

      Great idea in theory but there was a reason corn was subsidized in the first place, if you take away corn subsidies you end up with much more expensive food. I’m not saying that’s a bad idea, I think it’s a good one but if food becomes more expensive overnight then we have another very big problem. Corn is in everything because its so cheap. In fact thinking about it it’s pretty much then main food source for cattle and livery isn’t it? I think even the animals we consume are fed on high percentage corn diets. I saw a stat once that every American, genetically is 75% corn :-)

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
      • Ryan says:

        Ha, I’m sure that stat is true. And I agree, more expensive food, you are correct. I think that’s what a tax would do too, no? And I think the idea is that fat is not dangerous (except when over done, like most things), but the more dangerous is sugar. Why is sugar added? Clearly to make things taste good. But wouldn’t that drive up the price? Not when you have a cheap source of sugar. What’s a cheap source of sugar? Corn syrup! So that was the point mainly. And if we all ate a little bit less meat because it was more expensive, I don’t think I’d have a problem with that either.

        Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  14. caleb b says:

    With socialized medicine, there exists two unique incentives for me as a tax payer:
    1) Encourage all people to be as healthy as possible and costs will be low, or
    2) Encourage people to engage in activities that won’t kill them right away, but when it does strike them, they just die, with no expensive, prolonged care.

    So based on 2), cancer is very bad for society, but heart attacks are actually very good. Especially since heart attacks also limit social security payments. So maybe if we want to lower health care costs, we should encourage more heart attacks.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
    • Paul M. says:

      Well, that would be true… if people weren’t surviving heart attacks. Personally, my father has survived two massive heart attacks before he was 50 (pack-a-day and a poor diet for 30 years will do that) and now has very expensive medication that he takes, albeit on private insurance. On the other hand, my step-father is currently undergoing treatment for stage four neck cancer, was never a smoker or heavy drinker, but all of his treatment is being paid for by his VA benefits. So, you have a situation where one person is paying for all of their unhealthy decisions and another, who engaged in none of the risk increasing activities, who is having all of their costs paid for by the public benefit he enjoys from his military service.

      So, since the cost allocation varies greatly from individual to individual, I have a feeling you, as a tax payer, should just want to encourage as few health problems as possible.

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
    • Kathleen Cloheesy says:

      Thant might be true if everyone died from a heart attack. Unfortunately-from, your point of view- most don’t. They go to the hospital where they rack up thousands of dollars in ICU care, then have triple and quadruple bypass surgery so they can go on and live another 20-30 years.

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      • James says:

        Even if they do die from that first heart attack, it’s often after racking up thousands of dollars of ICU care…

        Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
    • Michael says:

      If Coca Cola really wanted to make people healthier they’d stop selling their silly fizzy drinks. (They’d certainly stop advertising it to children). But instead they give a tiny amount of money as a token gesture, indeed it’s just an investment in PR to make them look more socially responsible when anyone with any sense knows that’s not true. What’s worse is that politicians lap it up most likely because they’ve been pressured by lobbyists. It’s all a bit sickening really.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3
      • Joe says:

        I think you’ve captured something important here: The idea that they are just another victim of evil companies. Coca Coca isn’t in the business of being evil, they are in the business of profit-maximizing. What happened to people taking responsibility for their lives?

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    • Michael says:

      To some extent I agree that people need to take responsibility, at least when they can. But unfortunately due to many factors they are unable to.

      Two obvious ones.

      1. Education.

      People simply aren’t educated enough in nutrition and even if they wanted to be there’s such a deluge of nonsensical information out there that it’s way too confusing and impossible to expect people to be able to distinguish the good from the bad. So they rely on advice from doctors (often idiotic) the Government (just as idiotic) the internet (often less idiotic but still not great)

      You simply can’t suggest culpability when it’s almost impossible to get your hands on the right information.

      2. The power of marketing.

      These companies know exactly what they’re doing. They are BRILLIANT at it. As they should be considering the money involved. I’ll offer example that’s not on topic per se but an interesting one.

      Let’s look at the bodybuilding or fitness community. These guys spend years perfecting their bodies, sculpting them, looking at nutrition etc. If anyone should know what they’re doing it’s them. And most of the time they do. They eat well, train well and can’t be criticised. Until it comes to buying products. The moment it comes to buying supplements their brains turn to mash. L Carnitine, BCAA, L Glutamine, Beta Alanine, Whey isolate, Creatine HCL, argenine and so on, these are all increments they jump on, buy, get convinced to buy through brilliant marketing from the supplement companies.

      They spend a fortune on what is essentially a placebo. A FORTUNE! They buy into all these supplements and they might as well throw their money away or burn it.

      How do otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable people turn into idiots? It’s all down to marketing.

      The same goes for food and the food companies, but in their case even more money is involved. So they do everything in their power to convince you to buy their product, without you even knowing it. They push ‘low fat’ and spend millions, billions on promoting low fat diets. Low fat is jut another term for ‘Chemical Sh*tstorm’ but people buy into it.

      They come out with all kinds of crazy claims about how a product will aid health or help you lose weight. They emotionally trick you into buying food for your children. “Your kids need the best and product XXX is the best, here’s the evidence for this”. Of course there’s no evidence whatsoever. They’re making it all up but there’s big money involved.

      They sell battery hen eggs boxed with a sticker on showing a farmer sowing seeds. Is that how these chickens were raised? Of course not.

      Then you need to think about the science behind the marketing and the food. The colourings they use, the psychology of the sell. People just cannot take responsibility when they have no control due to the power of the selling model and buying experience. Foods are sold in such a way that the choice is almost taken out of our hands.

      Here’s the truth. People should eat as if they lived in a forest and only food they can grow or cultivate, catch or rear themselves should be eaten. So eat beef, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds but stay away from processed refined crap.

      Sounds good right?

      I do this. I live in this way but let me tell you something, to do so is ‘almost’ impossible. Everything conspires against you :) I try and make my kids eat healthy foods but it’s so difficult. Not because I can’t control them or a weak, but because the moment they go to school for a school lunch they’re fed nonsense. So I make packed lunches and hope for the best. I also don’t mind if they have the odd naughty bit of food, moderation is key, but I’m also fortunate in that they have grown up eating really well and wouldn’t dream of drinking a soda. “Urgh dad, that stuffs disgusting”. Phew :)

      So I’m all for sticking it to the 300 pound guy that sits about and eats chocolate all day but often it’s not so simple, not so black and white. There are women out there thinking they’re doing the right thing, eating the right foods but they are getting fatter and fatter. Blaming them isn’t fair.

      Here’s the advice we should be giving to a fat person.

      1. Stop with the exercise. Why? Because 95% of losing weight is diet. If you begin to exercise you will create hunger and appetite and first we need to clean up your diet. Exercise makes you fat, good article here http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1914974,00.html

      2. Stop eating processed foods. Stick to greens, vegetables, meat and fish (grass fed if possible and organic)

      3. Don’t eat any sugar (not too much fruit)

      4. Don’t eat sugar (worth repeating

      5. Don’t eat low fat. Get good fats into your body, MCTs great for energy etc

      6. Now time to do some exercise. Don’t go mad. Lift heavy every now and again, do some interval training, tabata etc. Walk. Lots of it.

      You’ll be thin in no time.

      But that kind of advice is very difficult to execute and is at odds with everything we are presented with, from ‘experts’ to the govt and food companies. Notwithstanding the fact that it’s flipping expensive!

      Anyway, that was a bit of an essay, I just feel i need to stick up for some fat people because it’s easy to lay blame at their doors when it’s just not that simple.

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      • Molly says:

        I’m sorry. I couldn’t get through the whole comment because I got hung up on your statement that nutritional information from doctors is more idiotic than information on the Internet. Really? Really? The Internet?

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  15. Kathie Clohessy says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  16. Bob Paul says:

    How about a real fat tax? Every year each of us could be weighed and our BMI measured. The fat tax could then be assessed based on a person’s excess body fat. I know it sounds absurd, but I’ll bet Michael Bloomberg would be all for it.

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    • Michael says:

      Except BMI tells you very little about one’s health, I have a stupidly high BMI but very low body fat percentage. For many people BMI is just not a realistic way to measure obesity or health.

      Plus I have to side with the overweight a little, they are a product of a system that pushes processed foods at them, that encourages people to get fat, that allows the big food companies to get away with clearly disingenuous practices and advertising. Only today I saw that Pepsi is releasing a drink that claims to Leo people lose weight. Companies like that should be closed down.

      So I do have sympathy, people don’t have the right food education (see a post earlier and the likes concerning how butter is bad for you because of the fat content), food companies are incredibly good at filling their foods with chemicals that induce you to buy and become almost addicted, their marketing is, for want of a better word, genius and all this is encouraged by the government.

      People often argue that the public has choice. I don’t think it has as much choice as people believe. I think it’s very difficult to live healthily when the food companies use science and psychology (and politics) to win you as a customer.

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      • James says:

        I think the BMI thing is true for a lot of us (men, anyway) who do serious exercise, and so carry rather more muscle mass than the typical semi-sedentary person for whom it was designed. But it’s a pretty fair first cut – if you have a high BMI, check to see whether you have washboard abs, or the excess weight collects around your waist and jiggles.

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    • IndieGir says:

      I’m a woman who lifts weights as part of my workout routine. I have a BMI of 26, but a body fat percentage of 23%. Why should I pay a penalty when a woman with a “normal” BMI has a higher body fat percentage? Or, for that matter, why should even body fat percentage be considered an indicator of health? I know a rather rotund lady from the gym who runs marathons and is still overweight. Your weight says nothing about your health.

      Now I’ll go get a cup of tea while I wait for the all the inane responses that will tell me 1) I’m not typical and there aren’t many people in my situation, most other people who are overweight are unhealthy, 2) I’m really unhealthy and just deluding myself, and 3) Gary Taubes says to stop exercising and eat fat and you’ll live forever . . .

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  17. Luke Allen says:

    I have a question….

    Is there actually clear evidence that raising the taxes on consumer products such as cigarettes, alcohol, fatty foods etc actually reduces the publics intake of said items?

    I ask because in Australia (where I live) the government places large taxes on alcohol and cigarettes and says it does it to help the public’s health… but it really just seems like a cover for massive revenue raising.

    Anybody shred any light on my concerns?

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    • Jan Johannessen says:

      People tend to respond to economic incentives and demand tends to be elastic to price. Booze is hardly a Giffen good. Of course smuggling and bootleg alcohol will undermine the effect somewhat. In Europe where a national border is rarely far away, smuggling will be more of an issue than in Oz.

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  18. KariAnn says:

    I think food reform in the US should start with the food the government is buying. Food stamps should be reformed to restrict purchases to healthy food. This could be especially beneficial because people on food stamps are more likely to be on Medicaid and we are paying for their health needs too.

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  19. Kari says:

    I think food reform in the US should start with the food the government is buying. Food stamps should be reformed to restrict purchases to healthy food. This could be especially beneficial because people on food stamps are more likely to be on Medicaid and we are paying for their health needs too.

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    • Molly says:

      I’ve thought for awhile that food stamps should be like WIC — you know, you can only get specific things with them. I haven’t fully thought it out, but if you could buy baking goods, bread, peanut butter, milk, cheese, produce, etc., and not candy, ice cream, chips, soda, and other processed food, I’d be much happier about paying for other people’s food. Even if it cost a little more because produce ain’t cheap, for the calories anyway.

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  20. RMR says:

    Setting the economics aside for a moment, the other challenge here is that it is basing a tax on shaky science. Dietary fat isn’t bad for you unless you’re pairing it with simple sugars (sugar, carbs) that induce your body in to storing it instead of burning it. If you want people to be healthier, tax sugar and white bread.

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  21. janvones says:

    How bout we tax liberal blowhards at 100% of income, on all spending, and 100% on their estates? That way they can actually do something to help the rest of us for once. Or would that be unconstitutional?

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  22. Jan Johannessen says:

    Norway has for decades imposed special taxes on sugar, carbonated drinks, chocolate, tobacco and alcohol and (rather bureacratically) tailored agricultural subsidies based on perceived heath benefits. It is paternalistic, but it nudges behaviour in a healthier direction. Some negative externalities and curtailed. People respond to incentives. Few people object to the marginal dollar of tax revenue coming from taxing sugar instead of, say, collecting more payroll tax.

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  23. Dennis L says:

    The book “Why we get Fat” should be required reading before the debate. The books calls attention to the possibility that “calories in calories out” is a symptom and not the cause and the reason Atkins works so well. All carbs are the problem. Not fat.

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  24. Mphatso says:

    I strongly believe the fat tax experiment by Denmark was a good one but maybe it was misunderstood.Generally taxing fatty foods is a very good idea like in africa where most fatty foods are viewed as luxuries.Such a tax will have little public outcry since the they have elastic demand.

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  25. John says:

    It is cheaper to eat junk than healthy. Why? Is it a lack of taxes? No!

    The US Fed Gov’t subsidies drive down the cost of corn production. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultural_subsidy)
    Many food additives are corn based. (High Fructose Corn Syrup etc.)

    A gov’t caused problem doesn’t need a gov’t fix. Treat the root cause instead of they symptoms.

    Get rid of gov’t subsides that already steals $billions from the citizenry.

    Get rid of the artificial market conditions created by farm bills before further manipulating the market with taxes.

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  26. Josh Leath says:

    What about an income tax structure (or insurance rates) based on BMI or body fat percentage?

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  27. Maddie Harris says:

    I think the state should increase education to families on cooking easy simple yum healthy meals, part of the reason people resort to eating fast food is the cheap price and greasy marketing but also the ease and quick service, when you’re hungry you want to eat now right not wait to search up a recipe and boil vegetables. SO maybe an educational programme offered by the state that raises awareness and enforces the concept that eating healthy can be just as easy, better for you, taste nicer, when you’ve got the know-how.

    Maddie.

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  28. Eric says:

    My main problem with a “fat tax”, is that at least according to the food pyramids and dietary recommendations we see all the time, the government has no idea what makes people fat. A huge part of obesity is related to processed grains (grains being the bottom level of the pyramid), whereas things like coconuts, salmon, and avocados have high levels fats and are arguably very healthy for you. Olive oil is another healthy fat that would potentially be affected, and therefore discouraged.

    It seems to me a tax on fatty things will encourage people to eat more processed carbs, thereby exacerbating the problem the same way the “fat is bad” marketing did in the 80′s and 90′s (which is apparently still affecting things now). Low fat ice cream was one of the results of this campaign, and many people immediately thought “Fat free? I can have as much as I want and not get fat!” Eating a cup of pure refined sugar is “fat free”, but will certainly fatten you up if you don’t control your intake. Don’t even get me started on the awfulness of margarine and “I can’t believe it’s not butter” compared to real butter…

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

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  29. Rebb says:

    Tax sugar and grain not meat and vegetables!

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