Tax unhealthy foods

Sin tax

Call me crazy but I’m all for a “sin” tax on unhealthy foods. After all, there’s already one in place for other potentially deadly substances like cigarettes and alcohol. And recreational drugs have been outlawed altogether. Hey, now there’s an idea…

Maybe we can get sugar classified as a drug, and then the “three strikes” drug laws would apply: Three bites of a Snickers and you get a life sentence in jail.

I may be exaggerating a bit here for effect, but the idea of selectively taxing certain foods and beverages is real. Philadelphia, New York (city and state), and San Francisco all considered “soda taxes” on sugar-sweetened beverages last year. In fact, at least 30 cities and states have considered taxes on soda or all sugar-sweetened beverages.

Other countries have already made some significant inroads launching these sorts of “sin tax” programs. Denmark’s saturated-fat tax went into effect last October (though they’ve targeted the wrong “villain,” it shows that this sort of program can be done). Hungary is proposing a new tax on foods with too much sugar, salt or fat (at least they got the first one right) to pay for state-financed health care.

Maybe putting something like this in place here in the U.S. would finally hit people where it hurts–their wallets. Because the increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and myriad other health problems don’t seem to be getting the message across.

Of course, it would work even better if the powers-that-be would take it one step further, and also help people choose the right foods, rather than just punishing them for choosing the wrong ones. One country has managed to do that already: Brazil’s “Zero Hunger” program features subsidized produce markets.

Listen, I know the idea of raising taxes on anything probably won’t win me any popularity contests. People hate taxes. But that’s my point. If increasing taxes could get people to hate processed, sugar- and carb-laden foods, I’m all for it.

Whatever works.