Cheap Healthy Good recently had an article about the junk food tax. It got me thinking.
While many suggestions have been made, I’m not aware of any actual legislation passed. (Someone please let me know if I’m wrong.) I do know that the most common suggestion in this topic is a tax on soda. Of course, I think those in favor of the bill are hoping for something that reaches a little farther than that. But it’s sort of a bare-minimum scenario.
The whole topic is complex, and it’s not made any better by the fact that this is all theory. We can’t point to specific parts of a bill and take issue with them. This is probably part of the reason that I’m divided on the issue, but there’s more to it than that.
First, as one comment pointed out, we need to know how “junk food” is determined. Who will be drawing up the definition? Will kids cereals be included with candy bars and soda? What about the abundance of frozen pizzas in the grocery store? They’re certainly packed with calories.
Tied in with this point: lobbyists. You didn’t think that candy companies would take this lying down, did you? Alcohol and tobacco are infamous for their lobbying efforts. It’s how they got away with so much for so long. (Depending on who you ask, they still do.)
We’re not just talking about a group of angry Keebler elves pouring into the capitol, folks. We could start to see political campaigns with large donations from candy and soda companies — especially with the new laws about corporate donations to those running for office. Heck, Stephen Colbert’s “presidential campaign” was financed by Doritos!
Many also argue that this is just another tax levied on the poor. They tend to eat less healthily, and they will be hurt the most by raised prices. Would this make them eat better or simply make their lives harder? After all, depending on the tax, junk food may still be the cheapest option.
Personally, I hate the idea of paying still more for junk food. I would love to say that a tax would get me to finally cut down, but I honestly don’t know if that’s true.
That said, I was fully in favor of other “sin taxes” such as alcohol and cigarettes. These are unnecessary items that are bad for our health. Quite often, the public ends up footing the bill for the resulting medical conditions. So I would feel like a hypocrite for decrying tobacco and liquor but not candy bars and sugary snacks.
The article cited by CHG claims that negative reinforcement works better than positive, at least when it comes to making people give up bad habits. (It also has some fascinating/terrifying reminders about the neurological effects of junk food consumption.) So is a tax going to show better results than, say, subsidizing fruits and veggies to make them more affordable? Or helping pay for gym memberships?
Should we just wait until 2014, when people have health care and try to encourage people to go to dietitians and nutritionists?
I need some answers, people!