In the June issue of Men’ s Health, on page 38 is an article entitled “A Big Fat Tax Cut.”  It talks about the study done by the University of Buffalo which concludes:

A ‘fat tax’ may help us eat healthier.  The Researchers … sent people through a faux supermarket and found that charging an extra 10 percent on unhealthy foods would lead shoppers to buy healthier items and carry away 6.5 percent fewer calories in their carts. ”

This is one of those studies I refer to as “The illumination of the obvious, by and for the ignorant.”  Do we really need to spend time and money  on a study to determine that in today’s economic climate, people will shy away from buying things that cost more.

Some observations, questions and issues that come to mind:

  • If this study was done within the last two years, how do you eliminate the inherent ingrained bias from living in a down economy?  Even those individuals who have not been significantly impacted by the economy, are afraid to spend money.
  • Would there be a difference if we were in an up economy?  No question here.  If I have extra discretionary change in my pocket, I am going to spend it on ways that make me happy and may not be the most intelligent.
  • But mainly – who determines what are healthier foods?  And here is the heart of the issue.
  • Should we tax carbonated beverages because of their sugar content, when fruit juices have more sugar?
  • Are eggs good or bad?
  • Is steak good or bad?
  • Is a 100 calorie WW low-fat high carb snack good or bad?
  • What was the content of that chicken noodle soup they wanted people to buy?  I’ll bet it had super amounts of salt along with a high carb to protein and fat ratio.
  • HFCS?
  • Soy?
  • ???????????????????
  • Where is the line drawn and Who draws the line?
  • It really has not worked effectively with smoking.

What this really says is more interesting.  Historically, taxes are not merely a means of supporting our communal life but have been used by our paternalistic governmental entities to be both a carrot and stick approach to changing our behavior.

What next – higher taxes if your weight exceeds the arbitrary and ambiguous BMI range?  What if you are too thin?

I want a tax credit for every hour I spend in the gym.

Rant Over.

DISCLAIMER: I graduated from SUNY Buffalo with a BA in Psych.