Recently Mark Bittman from The New York Times Opinion Pages has been writing about taxing fat in the U.S. It is being done in Austria, Switzerland, Hungary and Denmark. A few days ago he mentioned that Britain’s PM David Cameron is backing a national fat tax. You can read more about that here. You can read more about Denmark’s tax in Bittman’s article here.
Some of these countries also have taxes on soda, sugar, and salt to help pay for health care costs. Obesity in European countries is on the rise, as well as here in the US, as we know, and this is one way they hope to help combat it and also bring in some revenue. Denmark, Austria, and Switzerland have actually banned trans fats.
What I don’t understand is, are they taxing the companies who manufacture the food? I don’t think so, because it sounds like they are taxing the consumer. I suppose it doesn’t matter who they tax, though, because if they tax the companies then they’ll just raise the price of the foods.The I suppose the hope would be that people would stop purchasing those products and therefore force the company to make something with less fat/sugar/salt.
At first I thought this would really only affect processed foods, but something like a steak has fat in it; how do they measure the amount of fat from steak to steak? It also applies to food purchased at restaurants and that is where I think it could be very influential. Who takes the time to read the nutrition facts on meals at restaurants? I’m sure not many and I know I don’t. But I do read labels on foods I buy at the grocery.
We tax tobacco and alcohol; has that decreased the amount of people smoking/chewing and drinking? It seems like fewer people are smoking and that can probably be attributed to more understanding about smoking’s effects on health, but I haven’t read anything about whether or not the number of people smoking has definitely dropped in recent years; will have to do some research. I know Iowa has a hefty tax on cigarettes, I think $1 per pack.
Anyhow, I find this all very interesting and look forward to reading more and learning what effect the tax as on these countries’ obesity rates.