Now it’s the war against sugary beverages and junk food. In the US, there is increasing demand from health advocates and consumers on increasing taxes on unhealthy food. This was brought about by the alarmingly high incidence of obesity, diabetes mellitus and heart disease among Americans. However, this problem is not only unique to the US. Many parts of the developed world are facing the same problems and have also joined the war against junk food. Legislations in terms of product labeling, marketing, and advertising are already in place in many countries. However, many experts believe that increasing levies on fattening foods is the next big step.
Proponents of increased taxes on junk food in the US put forward the following arguments:
- The taxes will raise money for health care reform.
- Increased taxes will lead to soaring prices of the affected products, thus discouraging their consumption. It is estimated that a 10% in soda prices could cut consumption by 8 to 10%.
However, there are also those who are against this so-called “sin tax” or “obesity tax” based on the following grounds:
- It would turn the US into “a nanny state, hurt business, threaten an already weak economy and place an unfair burden on low-income shoppers.”
- It gives cash hungry states and local governments a reason to boost taxes under the guise of promoting good health.
- “Taxes never made anyone healthy. Education, exercise and balanced diets do that.”, according to one ad.
The group Americans Against Food Taxes is especially vocal against the taxation and supposedly has big backers in the food industry that have the most to lose including Pepsi Co, McDonalds, American Beverage Association and Burger King.
Will the taxation strategy work?
Experts believe that what happened to the tobacco industry is the best proof that levies do work. According to Mary Story, a dietitian and public health professor at the University of Minnesota:
Other ways of discouraging junk food consumption are already going on.
New York City has been one of the most active in the war against junk food. It has forced restaurants to eliminate the use of trans fats. The NYC health department is launching an anti-sugary beverage ad campaign that says
The battle is far from over. The fight will be bitter. But in the end, we hope that consumers’ health will win.