The “Fat Tax” – One Country’s War Against Obesity
Leave it to the descendants of the Vikings (pillage, rape and then burn) to come up with a new kind of tax that well, is rather blubbery.
This week, the Danes, lovers of lard, bacon products, pizza and potato chips face a new food tax on every product that has more than 2.3% of saturated fat. Finland and Romania are also considering following suit.
The proceeds from the tax will go into efforts to combat obesity.
Apart from hoarding food, the Danes seem to be okay with this initiative.
And even more interestingly, perhaps as strange as it may seem to many Americans, for the rest of Europe this move merely mirrors a new trend they support. Hungary has already imposed a tax on all foods with “unhealthy” levels of sugar, salt, carbs and caffeine. Denmark, Switzerland and Austria have already banned trans fats.
England too, the European country with the highest level of obesity, is already making rumbles that it will also impose the fat tax too.
There goes the only British contribution to world cuisine (fish and chips).
According to Tam Fry, however, spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum, ”It is not a question of whether we should follow the Danes’ lead – we have to. If we don’t do anything about it, by 2050, 70% of the British population will be obese or overweight and that would result not only in the downfall of the NHS but also of our national workforce.”
A recent study found that poor health and obesity costs the UK economy at least £21.5bn a year.
In an environment in the United States where even a soda tax has left “fiscal conservatives” with a sour taste in their mouths, we are not sure the climate is right to embrace such an idea. However, in an economy where health care costs (public and private) are already out of control with no end in sight, this might become an idea whose time has come (Paul Ryan, it is rumored has a washboard stomach, so perhaps this idea might even take root on the “R” side of the aisle supposedly so concerned with controlling the costs of Medicaid.)
Particularly if “Obamacare” swings fully into action.
According to the CDC (the Centers for Disease Control) one third of all Americans are obese. [Read article]. No state has met the nation’s Healthy People 2010 goal to lower obesity prevalence to 15%. The number of states with an obesity prevalence of 30% or more has increased to 12 states in 2010. In 2009, nine states had obesity rates of 30% or more. [See maps ] In 2000, no state had an obesity prevalence of 30% or more. [Read article].
While this might not seem like a sustainability issue, in fact, as a trend it very much is. It shows that unhealthy eating (often caused by poverty, since we are currently seeing the highest use of food stamps since the origination of the program), lack of time or ability to exercise and other factors with decidedly economic overtones do in fact affect people’s health.
It also affects their wallets and the society in which they live. A 2008 medical study showed that costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs paid by third-party payors for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. [Read summary]
For a society to be truly sustainable, it must create a healthy population. We are far from that. And as much as Americans hate the term taxes, perhaps it is time to start taxing not only companies but individuals for unsustainable behavior.
We’re not fans of governmental initiatives telling us what we can eat, however in the face of a global epidemic that is present in part because of our lack of reliance on the “slow food” chain, perhaps this could be the driver to really push that movement which is not only alive and well in the U.S. but growing.
- Body blow for butter-loving Danes as fat tax kicks in (guardian.co.uk)
- Denmark introduces ‘fat tax’ (cbc.ca)
- ‘Fat Tax’: Law Puts Price on Unhealthy Eating (abcnews.go.com)
- Denmark Institutes First-Ever ‘Fat Tax’ (newsfeed.time.com)
- ‘Fat tax’ on food aims to curb obesity (independent.co.uk)
- Half Of Adults ‘Will Be Obese By 2030′ (news.sky.com)