Unhealthy food should be taxed

in #debato2 years ago

To display the structured discussion or engage in the debate, view the topic on https://debato.org/html/discussion?a=samve&p=unhealthy-food-should-be-taxedtqbsa

We all now eating fast food or other cheap alternatives should be avoided, but because these processed, sugary, fatty produce are often the cheapest option, people tend to buy it anyways. So should unhealthy foods be taxed? It already showed that taxing cigarettes reduces the consumption of it (source), so why don`t we do this for all unhealthy produce?

You could argue that increased food prices would hit poorer people the most, but so does obesity, diabetes and other health issues hit them the most. And also do not ignore the option for these taxes to be used in affordable food programs or other subsidiary actions.

What is your opinion on this? Please join the discussion on debato.org


Taxing consumer goods have proven to reduce their consumption. This has proven to work with taxes on cigarettes or fossil fuels. (sources in comment) Implementing such a tax for unhealthy food would be in the benefit of everyone

I'm going to do a pro and con....Any tax falls most heavily on the poor. A paternalistic attitude might be that we should protect the poor from themselves. But who is protecting the rich from themselves? They don't need it?

I don't think people should be protected from themselves. If poorer people had the means to do so, they would buy different foods I believe. I think a system should be created where even for them, healthy meals and snacks are the best choice.

Disincentives seem to work, and unhealthy lifestyles impose a burden on all of society. Taxes don't just yield revenue. They also shape behavior. Maybe that's wrong, but we do it for tobacco and gas. Why not for poor food choices?

Hey @samve. Nice discussion. As usual, no easy answers. I've replied pro and con. Am resteeming.

Hi @agmoore2! You clearly figured out how to use debato, I love that! It is indeed an interesting topic. Many people and politicians have talked about it, yet only a few governments have actually put it in to practice. Thanks for resteeming!

This actually seems like a good idea, one could say that proper education might help to diminish the worldwide obesity problem, but let's be honest, everyone knows about the dangers of smoking and lots of people still do it. Eventually, more drastic measures are required, such as this one.

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That's a very good point! You should consider posting it as an argument on https://debato.org There you can also see the structure and other arguments of the debate.

I think taxation on the basis of health concerns is wrong. Once a tax has been established and the revenues are willing to go to the state's coffers, why should the system want to abolish it? Everyone benefits from illness in such a moment. Our entire system works on the basis of economic equations.

Do taxes have to be abolished at some point? If a tax is designed to balance a certain economic equation, removing the tax after a while only disrupts the balance again.

It has indeed shown that the most vulnerable people continue smoking for example, however high the tax may be. These people are then only made to suffer more by such taxes

I think taxation on the basis of health concerns is wrong. Once a tax has been established and the revenues are willing to go to the state's coffers, why should the system want to abolish it? Everyone benefits from illness in such a moment. Our entire system works on the basis of economic equations. Tax as a punishment: Who really cares? Taxes on tobacco, alcohol and other stimulants are only a nice source of income, but they are not a real barrier to consumption. People would buy unhealthy things even if they were made more expensive and might even prefer to do without healthy things, especially if they have little money. From an economic point of view this is a smart move, but from a systemic point of view it is more likely to be the preservation of what you are used to consuming and finding in the choice of goods than a reduction. The rethinking in the direction of awareness is not the result of higher costs, but rather of social ostracism. Smokers are second-class people (not my view) because they are considered undisciplined, addicted and also unattractive.
Punishment or reward in the form of tax penalties or benefits is a weak means because it distorts the authenticity of the situation. From my point of view, only permanent education and rethinking can achieve this. But anyone who wants to eat an unhealthy diet because he thinks he has too little money or unconsciously wants to compensate something should be allowed to do so with impunity. Fortunately, humanity consists of very heterogeneous individuals, groups and interests that are multi-faceted. After all, we do not have two, but countless interests, groups and individuals who make different statements and pursue different lifestyles. Unhealthy food may at some point in the future be just as outlawed as smoking. And yet there will still be smokers, just like unhealthy eaters.

From my personal point of view, the price of food has never stopped me from buying it. Here my sense of taste dominates, my desire for what I want to eat. Fortunately, I have never had a penchant for fast food. It doesn't taste good to me and I don't like the concept either. Why so many people eat fast food is a mystery to me. It is boring there, it stinks, there is no surprise, no atmosphere, no aesthetics, nothing that would attract me. I wonder how the fast food chains manage to find people who want to run the franchise. How much creativity and design freedom do you have to give up? Earning money in a battery is just as boring as eating battery food. But that's just my own opinion, it certainly doesn't reflect a general picture.

Another aspect: food depends on the cooking culture. Those who don't have a real cooking and eating culture at home will cook less and eat less together. This is connected with single households and single parents. The common meal time is dying out and therefore cooking is a rare act in the kitchens of individual households. The social component of food is less important when there is no one to eat with. Basically, taxation would be a kind of punishment for the lifestyle of a cook-less culture. But the fact that so many people live in single households and not with other people under one roof is an expression of an industrial society that can afford people to live alone. Living alone in agricultural communities is unthinkable. Also the argument of the poor with many children does not work, because there are probably many more childless and singles opposite them. But that is mere speculation on my part.

those are some great perspectives you show. You should consider posting some of them as actual arguments on the discussion rather than a comment. You can do that via https://debato.org . You say that prices are not a barrier to consumption, but why do you say that? Is it only from your perspective? Because there are plenty of studies showing the link between income and food quality ( one example: http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/APJCN/18/4/598.pdf ). I completely agree with you when you say that price is not the only factor, at a certain level you will just buy the foods you like and prefer, if that is deemed unhealthy, that's their choice. And if you want to tackle this, raising awareness would indeed be the best option, But why do students, or other people with lower income go for a bag of chips, soda during dinner, or a drive-through on the way home? I believe because it is available, cheap and satisfies their immediate needs. removing one of these pillars, being cheap, I believe will influence the consumption already. A tax on unhealthy food is not ment to outlaw unhealthy eating, but to make alternatives more attractive for people who look to their wallet to determine what to eat.
But it is indeed valuable that you mention education and lifestyles as important factors as well.

I also like the argument of the cooking culture, that we are moving towards a culture that cooks less and eats less together. But I don't think the only other way for those lifestyles is with cheap microwave meals. There are plenty of alternatives with meal boxes you just have to throw together in a pan or food delivery services that are more diverse and accessible than ever. So also here I believe that increasing the price of unhealthy alternatives can steer this new lifestyle trend into one with healthy eating habits.

But consider posting your arguments on https://debato.org if you want to use the debating structure of the platform :D

made the con argument on debato. Sorry, was lazy the first time.

Thank you for taking your time to pay attention to my long comment.

I work as a social counsellor and come into contact mainly with people who live on social assistance, i.e. who are at the lowest end of their incomes. One might think that they save on food because they cannot afford to eat good and healthy food. However, it has little to do with income, because reasonably nutritious food can also be bought for little money, if you know how to properly house with money.

As I see it, it is not primarily about the small income, but rather about what you can do with the small amount of money you have. It is a question of the attitude to consumption and what one desires to weigh up against what one really needs. The fact is, a poor person is obliged to spend most of his money on food and the roof over his head. As a second mobility, as a third access to modern communication: the Internet.

This may favour a rather meat-poor diet, which one must catch by means of replacement proteins, but this is also possible. You only have to want to know the necessary information and train yourself in it. In modern rich societies, financial poverty is not a sufficient reason for an unhealthy diet. Everywhere one is reached by the health trend and one does not need to be a brainiac to understand this.

The whole thing is rather a mental matter, people with less income may feel shabby and poor, they may have a tendency to neglect themselves due to lack of self-esteem or other events in life, but this also applies to people with money. This indifference to food may also be due to the fact that modern civilizations tend to portray everything as fixable. Bad teeth are simply replaced or repaired, pain or other ailments are compensated by pills. All this is easy to have. Even people who can't afford it are urged by dentists to have expensive dentures made and people prefer to buy furniture on installments rather than to be interested in a simple but nutritious kitchen. Basically, the poor want to look less poor and more like the wealthy. The money would also rather be spent on the latest mobile phone - again in installments. And so on. I cannot confirm from my consulting experience that food and income show such a direct causal relationship as you suggest here, only an indirect but connected to so many other things. I didn't read the study, so I can't say much about it.

To put it somewhat mercilessly: you can sleep great on an old mattress, do without a decent couch and set up a few simple chairs and a table than save on food. Besides: if you look at how expensive a Mc-Donalds visit is and compare it to a cleverly bought shopping basket, where you buy the ingredients fresh and have to cook them yourself, I wouldn't put my hand on the fire that it makes a big difference in price.

Supply and demand is never the real problem. The real problem, if you want to call it that, is the inner attitude and attitude towards consumption and really "being" or just "appearing".

Your work as a social counselor definitely gives your arguments more strength. Since I have no experience with this in real life I can only base my opinions on articles. You have some solid arguments and they made me rethink my opinion, so thanks for that.

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