Thursday, October 04, 2007

Taxing Sweets

Do you think putting a tax on your sweet and salty pleasures would curb your craving for junk? Half of Canadians surveyed by an Angus Reid poll think it's a bad idea but perhaps at least it would pay for your quadruple bypass down the road...

In a country such as Canada, where taxes pay for our healthcare, welfare and roads, it makes sense to tax those behaviors that are damaging to society to pay for the damages that result from them.

Take obesity for example. At least a third of adults are overweight and diabetes alone costs Canadians more than $9 billion a year. Since our lifestyle choices -getting that double-double at Tim Horton's every morning that eventually adds up, the government could be making a killing off of the types of foods that kill. Shouldn't the government be doing something to prevent heart disease, strokes and other health complications related to being overweight, especially when health depends so much on prevention?

Everyone hated Brian Mulroney when he introduced new taxes like the GST. If we work in a convenience store, we pay income tax to sell our goods while our customers pay tax again on every product to buy them from us! It's highway robbery! However, we've gotten used to it. Maybe the strategy could work in other ways...

What the government should do is tax more selectively and strategically, taxing people for buying certain types of goods (or bads) that are bad for health and the environment, create more tax breaks for people buying hybrid cars, recycling and throwing out less garbage. The Oxford study conducted in the UK proposes to add a 17.5 percent Value Added Tax to fatty, sugary and salty foods thereby dropping death rates by 1.7 percent. It would be great incentive for companies to make healthier products!

If taxation better reflected the types of services that the money goes to pay for, I think justice would be sweeter.



Blogger Phronk said...

There are a lot of factors to consider here.

Like, you mention it could drop death rates. But you also say it's there to pay for already-high death rates due to sweets. So is the purpose of the tax a deterrent, a way to prevent loss of government money due to harmful behaviours? If the purpose isn't clear, it'll be difficult to gain the public's support. And if the purpose is to put more money in health care, why not just raise the taxes on the already-existing sources of health care income?

There's also the fact that determining which foods should have extra tax and which foods shouldn't is difficult. Dark chocolate is clearly a sweet, but in small amounts, its benefits probably outweigh its harm. Should it be taxed? And why should people who eat these foods responsibly (i.e., don't get fat off of them) be taxed the same as people who don't?

Personally, I don't mind paying high taxes as long as they go towards causes that make life in our country more pleasant. But I'm not sure if taxing yummy but unhealthy foods could do so in any practical way.

3:50 p.m.  
Blogger Kristen Hovet said...

hey hope you are well. just noticed that you have the wrong link for my blog. it's

see you around!

1:39 p.m.  
Blogger Chloe said...

if the government tried to make me not eat sweets i would buy more and more and more. I think this reinforces junkie behaviour. If it's forbidden, i want it.

5:49 p.m.  
Blogger Lord Chimmy said...

These "sin taxes" are simply a way for governments to milk revenue. They make a bundle on alcohol and now they're looking for ways to increase their winnings.

The question is, "How much of this tax revenue will go to the hospitals?"

12:48 a.m.  
Blogger sirbarrett said...

phronk -Yes, it's a critical issue how the tax would be used. Complicated. If it didn't go to hospitals it would just seem corrupt for the government to be making more money off our junk. "It's a free country!" I think we still feel that.

You also raise some points about it being difficult to sort out certain foods that would be taxed. I think the government should simply ban certain foods that they know to have no health benefits -like trans fats. On the other hand, you're right. Almost anything can be bad for you if you eat enough of it. Maybe it wouldn't change anyone's lifestyle anyway...

Kristen Hovet -Hey moviestar, I've changed your address.

Chloe -You're a misfit. I shudder to think of the things you might do if they were outlawed.

Chimmy -Yes, the government is kind of like a gambler hedging bets on smoking and drinking for the rush of the money it generates. I realize to trust that they are going to put money into services that will counterract those behaviours they are taxing is just too much. Canada could use a lot more doctors. It should go towards creating more seats in medical school...When you say "sin" tax it reminds me of the Catholic state charging indulgences.

Anyway, hopefully they will try this tax out in the UK first so that we can all sit back and watch how it happens.

3:06 p.m.  

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