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Junk Food Taxes

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Category: Social Issues

Autor: anton 22 April 2011

Words: 1169 | Pages: 5


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 of government to eliminate the contracts and ban sales of soft drinks in schools all together. Students are not there to make the schools money; they are there to get an education.

Brownell had many discussions with public health officials regarding America’s ongoing problem with obesity. William Hathaway, of The Hartford Courant, had these comments to make: “His conclusions have been at the center of a growing national debate over food—from whether trans fats should be served in restaurants to snack food in schools. Brownell believes the chief culprit is the trillion dollar food industry, which Brownell said has stayed profitable through massive advertising campaigns to get people to eat more calories than they need” (Hathaway, 2007).

Let Freedom Ring

The junk food tax is a thought-provoking idea, provided the funds are used for the purpose intended. There are some concerns that the government should not be telling its people where they can or can not put a vending machine. Can they be trusted to regulate the way and manner these tax funds are used? According to Brownell, “We’ve identified a health- risk factor, but we’re only now starting to get serious about conveying its importance and magnitude to the public” (Wallis, 2004, p.46).


A national tax on junk food, soft drinks, and high fat foods would go a long way in raising funds for our nation’s ongoing struggle with obesity. It is obvious there are many ways it would benefit in the battle against obesity. Whether it be taxing our junk food, regulating our advertising, or strengthening the regulation of foods sold in our schools. It all comes back to the main idea of promoting nutrition and gaining ground towards the uphill battle of obesity in the United States. One can only hope that the funds are utilized for their intended purposes. What we eat and how we take care of ourselves is still our own choice. I do believe the pros would outweigh the cons and would work towards improving our health. In my opinion it is better to try to do something to improve our situation versus not do anything at all.


Hathaway, W. (2007). Obesity expert: blame policies. The Hartford Courant, Main, A. Retrieved October 26, 2007, from

Rosin, H. (2004). Junk-food taxes may encourage people to eat healthy foods. In Auriana Ojeda (Ed). Opposing Viewpoints: Health (pp. 178-182). Farmington, MI: Greenhaven Press.

Wallis, C. (2004, August 9). The obesity warriors what will it take to end this epidemic? These experts are very glad you asked. Time International, 164, 46. Retrieved October 26, 2007, from

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