Stop Fat? Tax Calories

It worked with cigarettes.  Now some are thinking it may work for food -- tax those who eat too much.

Well, you're not taxing the people, per se, but the calories they eat.

A story today at The Washington Post notes that "an increase in the price of a calorie regardless of its source would improve obesity outcomes,” according to a working paper that three researchers prepared for a private, nonprofit bureau, according to Peter Whoriskey.

The main culprit for one out of three Americans being fat or obese?  Low food prices, Whoriskey reports.  If we raised the taxes on sugary drinks, fast food and junk food, would people stop buying it, as they did cigarettes?

No one quite knows, but could you really tax something people need to live?  I suppose you could say we don't need Big Macs or giant Slurpees but the fear is that raising the prices on some foods probably would raise them on all, like fruits and vegetables, too, making them too expensive for many to buy, kind of defeating the whole purpose.

The most direct way to make people really think about the foods they're eating, experts say, is to tax the really bad-for-you ones.

So, what kind of tax?  A fat tax?  A sugar tax?  A calorie tax?  Or a general food tax?  Whoriskey writes that Abigail Okrent, an Agriculture Department researcher, and Julian Alston, a professor at the University of California at Davis, have compared them all.

"A calorie tax would get you the biggest bang for the buck; it’s the most direct way of taxing obesity,” Okrent told Whoriskey. But she admits, it's most likely not going to fly, politically.


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