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Junk Food Taxes

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The on going issue of battling obesity in America continues to haunt us. It has become a national epidemic and a major topic for controversy. The suggestion of implementing a junk food tax was proposed by several experts. The purpose of the tax was to decrease the consumption of unhealthy foods. This tax would also generate revenue earmarked for relevant causes, such as; improving diet, obesity prevention, and nutrition education. The underlying purpose is to focus on maximizing health benefits. It has sparked controversy on the levels of additional bureaucracy, interfering with personal liberties, and freedom of choice.

Junk-Food Taxes


For years health experts have been warning Americans to lose weight and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Over time obesity rates have tripled. It is obvious we are losing the battle against obesity. Combating obesity and its numerous illnesses will not require more drugs to lower cholesterol, diet books, or workout videos. It will require rethinking our environment. Other measures need to be taken to tackle this national epidemic. Addressing this issue is no easy task. Several experts have suggested implementing a junk food tax. This would provide funding to regulate junk food, its advertising, and many other areas improving our health. This idea has sparked a wide controversy in regard to the obesity issue, the benefits of such a tax plan, and our cherished individual freedom that health is our own responsibility.

The Obesity Epidemic

It is no wonder obesity is such an epidemic in today’s society. Temptation is everywhere. A fast food restaurant is located on every corner. They are now open at all hours of the night and day. You can purchase an entire meal for less than five dollars. You can not turn on the television without seeing a dozen junk food commercials. Hanna Rosin, a reporter for the Washington Post, addresses this issue with the opinions of Dr. Kelly Brownell, a Yale professor. Dr. Brownell is the director of Yale’s Center for Eating and Weight Disorders. Rosin (2004) states in her article the following insight from Brownell:

Brownell’s reasoning starts with the premise that the number of diet-related deaths is the same ballpark as the number of tobacco-related deaths: 300,000 a year and climbing for food, compared with 500,000 a year and dropping for smoke. About on-third of the U.S. population is 20 percent or more overweight and is therefore at risk of suffering high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular diseases. Fat advocates dispute these numbers and will likely arguer that Brownell (and I) are shills for the diet industry, but several reputable organizations have independently confirmed the dangers of obesity, including the Centers for Disease Control and the Harvard School of Public Health. (p.180)

Brownell proposes that implementing a tax on food with higher fat content would be taxed at a higher rate (Rosin, 2004). This is commonly referred to as a junk food tax. He also suggests the idea of having the government subsidize fruits and vegetables (Rosin, 2004). Some of the tax proceeds could be used to support this effort.

Benefits of Junk Food Tax Plan

A lot could be done with the amount of money raised from the tax to aid in the improvement of our health. We could think about regulating the food industry advertising itself. We should ban advertising of junk foods to kids, especially during prime time television programming. We should consider limiting the number of places junk food is available. We could accomplish this through zoning and planning, regulating the location, and hours of junk food outlets. We also should put thought into the number of snack food and soft drink vending machines and their locations.

The school systems are required by federal law to provide nutritious lunches and food. We need to strengthen and enforce the USDA regulation of foods sold in schools. Over the years the junk food industry has found ways to elude the law and its enforcement. Soft-drink companies have signed contracts that guarantee schools multimillion-dollar payments in return for putting in vending machines. We should act at all levels



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