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March 15, 2006

Taxing Fat

Chips The above title could be a play on words.  It can be tough to carry around extra fat that your body isn’t built for (which means it’s there as the result of an unhealthy lifestyle or other problem, not genetics -- in the latter case, I guess it means it's not extra!).  But in this post, I’m talking about the hairbrained notion that keeps popping up that somehow it will deter people from eating ‘junk foods’ if we add an extra tax to them.  Currently, the World Health Organization and a legislator from the Indiana House of Representatives are separately championing this idea as a way to help people stay slimmer.

A couple of problems with the idea (I know – you’re surprised!):

·        A ‘fat tax’ is based on the assumption that people get fat from eating junk food.  But most studies don’t show this, even for children.  The article I've linked to above gives a good review of those studies.

·        It’s highly unlikely that increasing the price for such foods will reduce the demand.  Studies show that demand for 'fun' foods tends to be insensitive to price, except for specific socioeconomic groups.  And among those who do react to price, at least one study shows they respond to higher food prices by eating fewer fruits and vegetables, not less prepared food.  Further, there’s the deprivation response that many weight strugglers are too familiar with – try to take something away, and we go for it even more.

Don’t these legislators/organizations know their history?  When has making something harder to get made it less desirable?  In my case, I’m sad to say a higher price tag often makes something seem more worthwhile (I'm sure I'm not the only one who suffers this illusion).

My vote – again, no surprise – goes to those with ideas for helping us make healthy eating more pleasurable – something we want to do, not that we are forced into doing.

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Posted by Marsha on March 15, 2006 | Permalink


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