Should We Tax Junk Food?

Should America tax junk food? Should we add a “fat tax” to the list of sin taxes? When most Americans eat fast food at least once a week, could we tax junk and subsidize healthy foods in the name of public health? Paul Michael of Wisebread thinks that it makes financial sense.

Here’s another idea. What if we use the money generated by fast food purchases to subsidize the prices of healthy food, like fruits, vegetables and fresh fish? Right now, fast food is generally cheaper than a healthy meal, and much easier to come by. There are fast food restaurants everywhere, but the healthy, cheap and easily accessible options are much more scarce. By channeling the money from junk food to good food, we are not preventing anyone from eating a burger…we’re just making it way more easy to buy a similarly-priced healthy alternative.

I would argue that calling the tax what it is—perhaps a “junk food tax”—is better than saying “fat tax.” No one calls tobacco taxes “lung cancer taxes.”

Would this help create more healthy food options in poor neighborhoods? Probably not. Will people pick up a whole trout instead of a slice of pizza for a quick lunch? Probably not. Slapping a tax on every prepared meal that someone (who?) deems bad for us is an oversimplification, but is this a good idea?

Should There Be a “Fat Tax” on Junk Food? [WiseBread]

(Photo: Paxton Holley)