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There Should Be a Fat Tax Introduced

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/24/2015 Category: Health
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 499 times Debate No: 70381
Debate Rounds (3)
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We often hear calls for a junk food tax or "fat tax" when there"s discussion of Australia"s growing obesity problem. The idea behind such a tax is that it would enable governments to subsidise healthy foods so that they"re more affordable, and make unhealthy foods comparatively expensive so people buy less of them.

But would they really? Is cost really the most powerful determinant of what food products people buy?

Let"s consider the likely effects of a junk food tax. Researchers claim that a 20% tax on a can of soft drink would be a sufficient deterrent to purchasing it.

It"s easy to visualise this: someone approaches the refrigerator in a convenience store wanting to buy a drink and ready to make a decision based on taste and cost. If a soft drink is more expensive than low-fat milk or water, it becomes less attractive and we could see a change in buying behaviour " and the attendant reduction in the consumption of obesity-promoting products.

Most meal options are not arrayed together for a simple price comparison. But the junk food tax idea falls over in other situations where food choices are made " when factors other than price come into play. Family dinner options, for instance, are rarely arrayed together in one location for a simple price comparison.

In lower-income areas, where obesity is disproportionately more common, main roads are lined with takeaway food outlets and the only greengrocer may not have a car park (let alone a drive-through service). Part of the attraction of takeaway food is that it provides instant satisfaction while demanding little in the way of (cooking) skills or (nutritional) knowledge.

Dinner options that require food preparation may be out of the question for people living in housing with inadequate cooking and food storage facilities. So, although I can prepare a vegetable and lentil curry with brown rice, followed by apple crumble with real egg custard, for a total of $3.39 per person, in disadvantaged communities this might not compare favourably with the "Five-dollar Meal Deals" offered by various takeaway chains, even if the meals were taxed until they became "Ten-dollar Meal Deals."

And regardless of the price, it may be hard to sell my healthy $3.39 meal to someone accustomed to takeaway"s addictively sweet and salty and fatty flavours, low in vegetables and high in melt-in-the-mouth starches.

Unlike fast-food outlets, a greengrocer may not have a car park or a drive-through service. When people claim that healthy food is expensive, they are sometimes simply observing that processed foods labelled "diet" are priced higher, or that high-energy junk foods supply more (unneeded) calories per dollar than vegetables do. Both claims are true, but trivial.

But sometimes they are actually pointing out, correctly, that the real cost of my meal is more than $3.39 " that, unlike the takeaway alternative, this home-cooked dinner cost nearly an hour of my time. An hour that I might not be inclined to spare if I were tired and footsore from a hard low-income job and trying to feed fractious children as soon as possible.

And that my home-cooked meal required a number of different skills and resources I might take for granted, such as cooking ability and a functional kitchen. And that it would cost more than $50 if I had to fund the start-up cost of all the ingredients " the kilogram of flour and the bottle of oil, and so on " instead of just using (and costing) smaller amounts of items I already had.

My $3.39 meal is very nutritious. Unlike the takeaway meal, it provides the full spectrum of essential vitamins and minerals, as well as beneficial fibre and health-protective plant substances, at around 2800kJ per serve. Five-dollar meal deals, on the other hand, typically overfeed, with one meal providing 4300kJ or more (over half of a day"s requirement), as well as less protein and more fat than my version.

Better food labelling might help consumers realise this. But labelling also works best when your options are equally convenient and equally available, sitting side by side for comparison on the supermarket shelf or a food outlet"s menu. When this is not the case, labelling loses much of its power to influence food choices. Just as price manipulation strategies, such as a "fat tax", do.

The time taken to prepare a healthy meal may not be available to those tired and footsore from a hard low-income job and trying to feed fractious children as soon as possible.

Efforts to combat obesity need to look beyond simple pricing strategies, to the underlying knowledge and skills that influence food choices. Just as physical activity is now compulsory at school, basic cooking (real basics, not just biscuits and pizza) should be an integral part of the personal development and life skills curriculum for all kids.

And rather than merely requiring a sink and food preparation area as they do now, building codes need to be updated so that adequate cooking facilities are mandatory in all dwellings. Communal kitchens are another suggestion worth considering.

An emphasis on improving skills means that rather than just punishing poor food choices, we equip people to make better ones - every day at home, not just in the convenience store.


This concept sounds to me like an artificial balancing of something that is not able to stand on its own. If health food needs to be subsidized to make it feasible then theres something obviously wrong with it.

You could argue by your same cost analysis that a "slim tax" could be instituted against farmers who grow whole foods and organic foods for taking up the same space and resources that a genetically enhanced food type could have yielded and fed more people, even out of a particular crops season.

A "fat tax" should not be introduced because it promotes one type of lifestyle over another. Its's a form of government control. Your lifestyle is not inherently better than those people's who eat the "fat" foods youre trying to regulate on. And the thought that you and your health peers should be able to walk on the backs of the people (by using their money to fund your life choices) who don't eat what you like is infuriating.

The only logical stance I can see for this would be if you argued that these unhealthy eaters were a drain to you and your types in some manner. This may actually be the truth there in Australia though since your healthcare is publicly funded and required by all. That was more counter freedom legislation that actually helped lead to this issue we are talking about now.

Simply put, that society leaned too far from personal freedom and are now falling hard towards total socialism. Keep your lifestyle to yourself and let people live their lives. Quit trying to control them. If health food is the right way to go ... these fat unhealthy people will kill themselves off on their own. They don't need the lives of everyone else in the country to be affected while you try to artificially reverse something that could just as easily work itself out.
Debate Round No. 1


Despite the staggering increase in numbers of people who are obese, there is an increasing tendency on the part of health professionals to take a "non-judgmental" approach to such problems.
The Labour government"s Foresight report blamed the rise in obesity on an "obesogenic environment" " explaining the problem as an inevitable consequence of modern, sedentary lifestyles.
When interviewed on Radio 4"s Today programme recently, Alberic Fiennes, of the National Bariatric Surgery Registry, repeatedly referred to obesity as a "disease" " rather than a self-inflicted condition that people have the ability to control through willpower.

Of course there are some illnesses and drug treatments which promote weight gain, but such a non-judgmental approach denies the importance of personal responsibility and passes the problem on an NHS which is increasingly unable to cope " particularly in the current economic climate " with everything that it is asked to do.
It is unfair that the huge costs of treating and coping with obesity should be passed onto taxpayers. Why are fat people treated differently when public health policy does not take the same attitude towards people who harm their health by smoking or drinking too much?
In each case, a tax is imposed which more than covers the cost to the NHS of treating diseases related to these activities.
Tobacco taxes raise "9.3 billion a year for the Treasury " more than three times the "2.7 billion which the NHS annually spends treating smoking-related diseases.
Alcohol taxes raise "8.3 billion a year, nearly three times the "3 billion annual cost of treating alcohol-related diseases.

One of the arguments against a fat tax has been the fact that it would disproportionately hit the poor who are more likely to eat fatty, cheap and convenience processed foods.
Indeed, a study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies in 2004 concluded that a tax similar to that now imposed in Denmark would cost the poorest 2 per cent of the population 0.7 per cent of their income.
For the richest 10 per cent of the population, on the other hand, the impact would be minimal.
Yet there is an easy way for the poor to avoid a fat tax: buy less fatty food.
Meanwhile, as well as Denmark"s new fat tax, Hungary has also introduced a tax on all packaged foods containing unhealthy levels of sugar, salt, and carbohydrates, as well as products containing certain amounts of caffeine.
Health experts believe such taxes will encourage food manufacturers to make products that have a reduced fat content " and that consumers won"t even notice the difference in taste " and they might be far healthier as a result.

Besides ambulances, the NHS has also had to invest in specialist lifting equipment, including cushions at "2,500 a time and specialist stretchers costing between "7,000 and "10,000.
The Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust spent "500,000 on extra-large furniture and equipment.
In Lancashire, hospitals also spent "42,010 on giant birthing beds for obese women in labour, while Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Swindon spent "3,000 on just one set of scales able to weigh people up to 78st.
Then there is the cost of bariatric surgery " an umbrella term for operations involving the reduction obesity, including gastric bands and gastric bypasses. In 2003/04, the NHS performed 470 such operations.
That figure rose to 6,500 in 2009/10.
Given that a gastric band costs between "5,000 and "7,000, and a gastric bypass between "8,000 and "14,000, this has become one of the fastest-growing drains on NHS budgets.
Yet less than 1 per cent of obese patients are receiving the operations, and there is a great deal of pressure on the NHS to increase this percentage.


I agree with you there. Healthcare is disproportinately disseminated to people with little to no sense of personal responsibility under this line of thinking. In your first set of arguements though you didn't mention trying to use that "fat tax" to offset the costs of their larger health bills. That form of offset WAS already the norm amongst all healthcare and insurance providers in that your premiums were adjusted based on your lifestyle. Many required blood tests and asked health related questions to assess your liability on the rest of their members when you start making claims.

Public funded healthcare took this form of offsetting costs away when they made it gov't run and for the public. Now you want to go back and find a way to basically do the same? Make healthcare affordable by all then tax them on the backside for their eating habits, or smoking habits, or drinking habits or whatever? That makes no sense. Private companies already had that loophole figured out and accounted for in their policies and people frowned on it and made them look like the bad guy for charging more or denying people based on their increased liability.

Your wanting to tax people for what they eat is no different without using that money to offest the cost of the food also. You would HAVE to offset the cost of that food to make it affordable for people to unanimously choose to use it in the first place, else you are just further excluding certain people from the healthcare you think they are all entitled to by natural right (sigh).

So, your proposition is contingent on using the funds to both offset the cost of the food so they can have the ability to get on this bandwagon of yours and also the money would have to be used to still offset health costs (which you presume will decrease, since everyone will be eating only your health foods).

Also, the numbers you posted about taxing tobacco and alcohol stunned me. Thats great that the gov't was able to meet that NHS mark ... but you make it look like their in the business of making money off of use at 3x the amount needed?! 3x?! Thats a gross mistepping of their bounds. They should not be controlling people at all, let alone turning a profit off of it. Then that money goes to what? Subsidise some other effort that does not pay for itself? Sounds like alot of excess fat in the gov't that will be kept around, again not because of it's own merit, but because of some excessive taxing going on from other programs.

"Health experts believe such taxes will encourage food manufacturers to make products that have a reduced fat content " and that consumers won"t even notice the difference in taste " and they might be far healthier as a result."

Where is this ever stated to be their responsibility?? It is not the responsibility of any government i have ever lived under. And never will be. This is a waste of time on the part of the officials I voted in to office. Its not even the responsibility of the company making these foods to do such a thing. They only exist because they provided a product myself and others enjoyed in the first place. The minute they change their purpose to that of thinking themselves the providers of my health and taking responsibility for my decisions ... theyve overstepped their purpose aswell.

Read some of their mission statements. MARS, CocaCola, Kraft, whatever. None of them are talking about feeling responsible for the general health of the public in their statements. They are supposed to be providing a product consistent with what people like and nothing more. If they start limiting their products to whatever is affordable to make by modifying it to dodge extra gov't taxes ... the minute they do that they die off ... and people will find another brand that can provide. This is essentially food censorship. Not a form of control I want anyone to have over me. Especially if they have a narrative!!

The gov't doesn't get to have that narrative. They don't get to have any narrative other than the ones laid out in the constitution to protect my freedoms. They are supposed to be protecting my freedoms not protecting me from them!

Protecting me from my own freewill. Thats what this all sounds like.
Debate Round No. 2


Personally I think people should not have to be told by their government what they can and cannot eat. Too much of any food will make you fat. The government should not be in the business of deciding which foods cross the fat tax line and which don't. Companies will try to buy off politicians in order to not be taxed. That leads us to the question, which foods will cross the fat-tax line and which will not? How is healthy foods defined? It's impossible to regulate this tax. I honestly think that the UK shouldn't implement a fat tax on food as doing so penalizes people for eating, which won't actually curb weight gain and obesity. The fact of the matter is that people have to choose for themselves to eat healthier foods. The government can't tax people on fatty foods and expect anything good to happen. Let's be honest a fat tax won't increase the consumption of healthy foods - we have seen this type of thing before...for example the tax on cigarettes did not stop people buying cigarettes even though they know the negative effects of the drug...this just means they will be paying more for their "stress-relievers." Here is a very important point which none of you have probably thought of...If a fat tax was ever introduced then the end result is likely to be that people will still buy junk food first but will pay more and thus will not be able to afford any healthier foods which could lead to an increase in obesity!

As I have mentioned high food consumption the only main reason why obesity is present today? The answer is no! Physical one is getting much of that lately. This is in fact to do with how much people now sit in front of the TV or laptop, phone tablet, Playstation, Xbox the list goes on and on! Also today's jobs are changing the lifestyle of people. No one is bothering to get up of their backside and actually do a bit of exercise. Children nowadays are spending far too much time on phones and computers that it's unreal! Out of the recommended 2.5 hours per week of physical activity for adults, ONLY one in three adults receive this recommended amount of physical activity each week. In addition only 1/3 of children are physically active every day...I'm sorry but this is the problem! The lack of physical exercise among adults and children is becoming a joke...It is the electronics in today's world that is the problem!

A fat tax should not be introduced because a fat tax won't solve the portion sizes. Family dinner portion sizes are increasing and this is not helping the obesity crisis one bit. Over-eating is certainly a big factor that contributes to obesity. Also a fat tax enforces a dangerous impression that society demands slimness which could possible lead to an increase of depression in young people because they don't meet society's needs. Furthermore, evidence where the fat tax was introduced in Denmark shows that the fat tax is pointless and should not be implemented because when it was introduced in October 2011 the public complained and businesses moved to Germany or Sweden to take advantage of the lower prices. Eventually the government gave in on November 2012 when the tax was abolished. Proof that the tax is unsuccessful and futile.
At the end of the day putting a tax on fat food is ridiculous: why not tax people breathing air! It's almost becoming like the Lorax! I have the right to choose to eat unhealthy food. Why should I have to pay more for a bag of crisps compared to an apple?
Here is a famous quote which is true..."It's not that diabetes, heart disease and obesity runs in your family. It's that no one runs in your family!"


"If a fat tax was ever introduced then the end result is likely to be that people will still buy junk food first but will pay more and thus will not be able to afford any healthier foods which could lead to an increase in obesity!'

You hit the nail on the head here. Poor people will sacrifice tooth and nail to make sure they have cable TV, whether they should be spending the money on more important things or not. Increasing the amount for fatty foods will not curb anything ... it'll just grow this wallet for some gov't assoc. to use wrongfully.

Actually I pretty much agree with everything you stated in your round 3 argument. You sorta pulled a U-turn on me there. I know I was labeled 'pro' above, but your introductory argument led me to believe you supported this tax. You sound now like you do not.
Debate Round No. 3
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