T Nation

High Taxes on Junk Food


There seems to be more and more data accumulating that points towards obesity epidemics in USA and many other developed nations (UK, Australia, NZ...). There are several threads running on this topic, where many people express their disgust for fat people (which I totally share) and never fail to mention "personal responsibility".
Yet as a society we need to take more global measures, which makes it easier to be "personally responsible". What about very high taxes on any kind of junk food along with lowered taxes on healthy food? This should help solve the problem - it will lead to reduction in junk-food consumption. Pretty much government SHOULD step in and make it harder for people to get fat by increasing the cost of "bad food". Other than fast-food lobby, what are possible counter-arguments to this proposition?

P.S. I know that this measures will make Prof.X.'s bulking routine way more expensive; all of T-Nation should chip in to balance it out.


Junk food companies would probably try to sue, as higher taxes on their food would encourage people to buy healthier foods therefore decreasing the sales of their shitty food.

I'm all for it, though.


I am all for it.


I'm not very knowlegable on the subject, but that seems very similar to the high tax placed on cigarettes. That makes me think that it's probably a LEGAL option, and one that I would support if it ever came up.


While I would support it, we are talking about the govt. Who knows what standards they will set (look at the food pyramid). They would end up doing something dumb.

Same reason I couldn't see them (or other entity) doing anything good with 'overweight' people. They would classify it with BMI, thus making most of us overweight, or use bodyfat testing, where you could be a pro bodybuilder and two steps away from a heart attack but be at 4% bodyfat.

If set up properly though it would be great.


Not many of you are from the Chicago area but I'm sure you've heard something about the smoking ban that was recently passed. All public places, including bars and clubs, must be smoke free within, I believe, two years.

To support this change, taxes have been significantly increased on all tobacco products in IL.


No way do I support that. What business is it of the gov't as to what I eat? Ah yes, I forget, America is actually on its trend toward socialism, which means that crappy food means my tax dollars go to paying for some fat SOB's medical costs.

The solution? Go back to be a free "classical" liberal society upon which we were founded in the first place. Not to get preachy, but think about it folks, we're putting our own chains on in our road to complacent slavery. Read a little J.S. Mill, he's actually got some answers.



Unless they REALLY raise the taxes on fast food I don't see it doing too much. They'd have to make the tax 50% or something, so $5 on a $10 order. At least it will provide funds to deal with medical costs for all of the obesity related diseases. But I'll still get McDonalds when I'm drunk at 3am, ya know?



I'm glad that you responded, as this is exactly the response which I don't understand.

It's governments business to regulate society - that's what laws are for. History have shown that completely unregulated economic entities tend to be very bad socially-wise. Junk food industry is becoming one of them - obesity epidemics is the best sign of it.


Well, I think taxes should be raised so that SOME noticable shift in consumption is achieved. As far as I know taxes are a HUGE part of gasoline price, so large sales tax is not something new.

And pouring this food-tax money directly to health-care is good way to justify the tax.


Actually, the US government provides for a lot of hidden subsidy for the fast food industry, from the help they give to keep corn cheap (high fructose corn syrup) to work training grants they give to McDonalds so McD's can say they are training and educating workers. Perhaps a good place to start would be by curtailing those.


Not quite: "The U.S. federal gasoline tax as of 2005 was 18.4?/gal (4.86?/L), and the gasoline taxes in the various states range from 10 cents to 33 cents, with an average about 22 cents per U.S. gallon (5.8?/L)." wikipedia


I have a theory, how about instead of the government stepping in (they already do, subtlely, but in negative or ineffectual ways), how about people take some personal resonsibility? Also, getting health and gym classes back in schools, get pop out of schools, healthy school lunches, stop making high fructose corn syrup so cheap, build parks, put your damn kids in the parks, aaaaaaagghhhhhhh!


Good point. Was it a bigger % in the past? (now it is ~15%).

Cigarettes are a better example. I think NYC has an enourmous tax on smokes. Luxury tax is another example.

Re:subsidies - I never thought of that yet. Are these training programs' subsidies unique to fast-food?


No, it's the business of the gov't to protect us from each other and to prevent the lack of progress that comes in a Hobbessian "state of nature". A gov't that protects us from ourselves only does so temporarily because it produces poor citizens. Those citizens eventually become leaders. Consider the people you grew up with who had mom and dad shelter them. What happened to them when they grew up?

If we only follow rules because of laws imposed upon us then after a few generations we often do not even know why those rules exist, we believe in them dogmatically and because they never enter the "arena of ideas" they can never be truly proven or misproven. This type of behavior regresses us as a people and society.

I ask then, what is your response to undercover cops arresting drunk people IN BARS in Texas? By opening up the door for free and diverse action and thought we make ourselves more survivable as a species. Giving gov't control it should not be allowed opens up the door to the "tyranny of the masses".

TC wrote an atomic dog not too long ago about the flu epidemic in 1918.
The Gov't can't save you from everything. Imagine now that this healthy fast food free society that you advocate is hit by a similiar flu. The bird flu comes to mind as it too is most apt to kill healthier individuals. If I'm going to die I'd rather it comes on account of my own excercise of freedom than a gov't mandate of whatever is the popular vote at the time. Remember these are the people that took away ephedra and MAG-10.

So imagine we outlaw smoking. The top preventable killer is gone. Next we outlaw or impose insane taxes upon fast food. Obesiety drops and we're healthier still. Hrrrmmm, what about when we're so "healthy" that the top killer is stress? Should we outlaw free speech because when I hear socialist drivel my heart rate soars and cortisol rushes my veins?

Molon Labe!



You need to read up on very important economic concept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externalities

I did not suggest outlawing fast food. I suggested discouraging companinies from producing it and encouraging production/consumption of healthy food. It IS the responsibility of government to encourage "good" behaviour and make it easier for its citizens to make healthier choices.

I don't see a principal difference between lowering healthy food tax and upping junk food tax other than higher junk food tax will make it easier to fund health-care of obese :).

Don't forget that obesity is NOT an individual problem; it affects society as a whole. See the link above.

They are arresting people because they are breaking the law. My response is that this law needs to be changed.

Yeah, they took those away. While I am no expert on safety of either, I think FDA overreacted. There are more gentle ways to regulate possibly dangerous supplements.

Fit, healthy people have better stress coping mechanisms and I don't see anything bad in getting rid of obesity and smoking. I don't think we should outlaw free speech; quite the opposite - we should produce much more socialist drivel in hopes that your heart will not cope with high heart rate and that cortisol will make you fat. Maybe then beneficial reforms will be easier to realize.


True. They would probably classify beef jerky as junk food.


User-payer all the way, as long as the collected taxes stay in an actuary-controlled third party reserve that cannot be tapped for other uses than its true and initial purpose. I also say tax on both ends, at the cash register as well as on the annual tax filing, that way you can minimize the tax dodgers. Dream on.


A lot of cities are already smoke free.


I do not think the answer is taxing unhealthy foods or subsidizing unhealthy ones. That screams fascist to me. I think a better solution is a better breakdown on health and life insurance. Where some measures of fitness are instituted and also lack of risk factors such as good blood pressure and cholesterol.