Sugar Alert – Indigestible Tax


By Dean L. Jones, C.P.M.

Did you ever imagine a time when the government would impose a punitive tax for unhealthy eating?  A large number of people pushed for added tax on cigarettes subsequent to learning that cancer and emphysema of the lungs were directly linked to its use.  Taxing monstrous cigarettes gave more revenue to spend on good stuff.

This tax plan is working, so why not identify more bad stuff and tax it.  Along with the obvious alcohol and tobacco products, scientific researchers are reporting that saturated fats, meats, eggs, sugar and salt are unhealthy too.  The country of Denmark imposed new taxes this month adding an additional 16 kroner (about $3 U.S.) per kilogram of saturated fat or about $6.27 per pound of pure saturated fat.   For example, the revenue from the tax will add 12₵ to a serving of potato chips, 40₵ to a single-patty hamburger and 39₵ to a pound of butter.

Our country’s growing media movement with Dr. Oz, The Doctors, and the Let’s Move program is priming the U.S. government to hit sugar, salt and/or highly saturated fat filled items soon.  It goes to reason as the top four causes of death in the United States are Diseases of Heart (28.5%), Malignant Neoplasms (cancer-22.8%), Cerebrovascular Diseases (stroke-6.7%, and Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases (5.1%).

A good number of our youth get the picture about health.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a study of young college students and their purchases of sugar-filled, high-calorie items.  When products had at least a 25% tax added the students consumed 100 to 300 calories less, depending on the specific tax.  Although the added cost did not affect every student, as there were those students who were already paying attention to their diets, and read calorie information for the foods, which helped guide their decisions regardless of the tax imposed.  Harvard University researchers added a 35% tax to sugary sodas at one of the local hospitals in Boston and reported a dramatic 26% drop in soda consumption.

Combine the research findings with socioeconomic experiments and the day will come when certain food items will see the tax man hit mighty hard.  Without self-discipline and education the price hikes may seem appropriate. Even though I firmly believe in personal liberties, if being unable to control eating habits to the point that the government needs to step in then personal responsibility should step up and do the right thing.

An easy model to subscribe to is supply and demand model.  Obesity and its related conditions account for $147 billion dollars per year in healthcare costs.  If I drive my car harder than others, I pay more for associated maintenance fees, supply and demand.  Similar rules should apply to those that drive their bodies more excessively through poor diets practices.
Mr. Jones is a marketing strategist with the Southland Partnership Corporation (a public benefit organization), sharing his view on mismanagement practices of packaged foods & beverages.