To tax, or not to tax - that is the question

By: Jennifer Pretty May 29, 2012
junk food tax

It isn’t a new story, but rather one that continues to resurface every now and again. It is one that isn’t going away, mainly because the underlying problem isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But the question I wonder is where does science end and legislation begin?

Several papers have been published in medical journals, including Britain’s The Lancet, which looked at obesity trends around the world. I can save you the trouble by telling you the highlights of their report. Of the approximately 7 billion people on the planet, 2 billion of them are considered obese. 170 million children around the world are considered obese, which is pretty disturbing. To break this down even further, that’s more than 30% of the world’s population. Considering that many countries have more than 20% of its population considered malnourished, that number is pretty startling.

It is difficult to escape these numbers isn’t it? We see it here. We may not have the sheer obesity numbers that the US have, but we certainly still have a problem in our country, don’t we? Obesity is an issue. It can contribute to serious health problems like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

I certainly don’t have the answers, but one recommendation that came out of these studies surprised me. They strongly encouraged governments to raise the taxes on junk food.

We are taxed quite heavily as it is, aren’t we? If I thought adding tax to junk food would curb the problem, I would actually be for it. But two things keep jumping out at me.

Let’s be honest, most of us eat a little junk food from time to time. And while most of us may see it as an indulgence, I can’t help but think of those who eat it both because they are unaware that it is really considered junk and because it is typically cheaper than many healthier alternatives. Perhaps if healthy foods were more economical for lower income people, along with easier to understand food labels, they could afford to make healthier choices.

But the other thing I wonder is, why tax it? Okay, the theory is that if it’s taxed heavily it will deter people from eating it. More than half the price of cigarettes goes to taxes and yet I see people smoking heavily, still.

And what exactly would these heavier taxes go to? Would they pay for government-sponsored adverts on the television and billboards warning us of the dangers of junk food? Has anyone considered heavily taxing the companies that produce junk food and forcing them to create the billboards and TV advertisements?

Again, where does science end and legislation begin?

Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C


Jennifer Pretty began her career as the director of artist development for a well-known Canadian music label. Branching out on her own, she then started her own PR business “Pretty Media Management” planning and hosting various charity, entertainment and fashion events. As a dance and fitness class enthusiast Jennifer is a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. She also loves to cook, travel, spend time with family and friends and most importantly living life to the fullest!