A line of obesity-targeted health measures has been sweeping the world, called a “fat tax”. They have been in effect since 2011 in Denmark. Fat taxes place food items into particular tax-brackets based on the amount of fat that it takes to make that product. Such items as butters, higher-fat milks, meats and such therefore have seen an increase in prices. The reported purpose of such measures has been to target the issue of lower life-span and public health costs.
Samoa Air recently in April 2013 become the first airline for which people pay not by the seat, but by what they weigh. This includes not only the obese, but also muscled athletes such as rugby player Paul Perez, according to The Guardian. Obesity measures have even reached American shores, as with New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent self-described, public health ban on super-sized sodas.
The effect of fat taxes in Denmark was that consumers were driven to even less healthy foods, even travelling across their borders to find their favorite foods. The apparent frontal attack on obesity, poor diet and nutrition and preventable death failed to produce the intended consequences.
According to Forbes Contributors Jens F. Laurson and George Pieler, “The tax drove people to cheaper, lower quality, occasionally less fatty alternatives. And it drove Danes, quite literally, across the border to nearby Germany or Sweden to get their favorite foods. Danish television meanwhile scored high with a cooking show that extolled the virtues of butter.”
What is the justification for the roll-out of such taxes? It’s because authorities claim the public is addicted.
Dr. Kelly Brownell of Yale University says there are two problems with unhealthy food: “It tastes really good and it acts on the brain in such a way that it keeps us wanting more of it. Plus the foods are the ones most heavily marketed by the industry because these are foods that people over-consume. So something needs to be done to change that incentive structure and changing the price could be one thing that could do that.”
It remains to be seen if Americans agree.