Friday, October 28, 2011

Fat Tax is Undue Social Control

Liberals are not known for social oppression, however, they do not remain so hands off when it comes to unhealthy foods. A fat tax is a good idea if it does, in fact, promise to fund fitness and education programs geared towards getting kids (and adults) to eat healthier. The issue is in the comparison; supporters assert that a sin tax on food would be similar to that of taxes levied on cigarettes and alcohol, however, regardless of the health value of food, all food is sustenance whereas tobacco and alcohol are not.

The proposed tax on caloric sweetened drinks is, debatably, valid as non-diet soda1, energy and sports drinks are a luxury to the human need for water, however, the L.A. Times writer suggests expanding the tax to fast food.

That is not to say obesity is not a problem; a fat tax, if implemented, should subsidize gym memberships and get healthier food in schools but taxing unhealthy food items, such as fast food, is undue social control. A person could make a burger at home or buy one at a fast food chain, the former is obviously healthier but both burgers are life-sustaining food. People have the right to choose what they consume and it should be without taxation to urge them another way. This is dissimilar to tobacco and alcohol because they are unnecessary to life; one can choose to go a full lifetime without one or both.

The issue of obesity is more a problem of calorie control rather than the issue of consuming unhealthy foods; a person can lose weight and still consume unhealthy fast food if they carefully watch their daily caloric intake. This is not to say such practice is a good idea but it is a choice people can make.

What is a problem is unhealthy and fast food marketing which instills, into children, a strong sense of desire and longing that makes proper parenting difficult when it seems so menial and even cruel an issue as what a child would prefer to eat but this is, of course, where the issues of obesity begin. Fat tax proponents argue they are already up against corporate social control; this is fair, however, taxation is a more physical control whereas corporate advertising still allows people to choose.

If healthy foods are uncompetitive in our low-priced, fast food world, then a fat tax could be seen as more valid as an attempt to even the playing field between healthy and unhealthy foods.

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Additional Note:
1 The article makes no mention of non-caloric, or diet, drinks; it sounds as if they would be exempted from such a tax.
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Additional Reading: (while I stand by my opinions, evidence and articles are stacked up against opponents, however, there are murmurings against such social control, amongst the tobacco/alcohol similarity assertions)
Taxes and Inelastic Goods
Denmark Introduces 'Fat Tax' on Foods High in Saturated Fat
'Fat tax is the best way to cut obesity:' Treat junk food like cigarettes, argues OECD
Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables