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'Fat tax' could save thousands of lives each year

Posted by Megan T.

LONDON - A 'fat tax' on salty, sugary and fatty foods could save thousands of lives each year, according to a study published on Thursday. Researchers at Oxford University say that charging Value Added Tax (VAT) at 17.5 percent on foods deemed to be unhealthy would cut consumer demand and reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes. The purchase tax is already levied on a small number of products such as potato crisps, ice cream, confectionery and chocolate biscuits, but most food is exempt. The move could save an estimated 3,200 lives in Britain each year, according to the study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. "A well-designed and carefully-targeted fat tax could be a useful tool for reducing the burden of food-related disease," the study concluded. Rejecting 'nanny state' The team from Oxford's Department of Public Health said higher taxes have already been imposed on cigarettes and alcohol to encourage healthy living. They used a mathematical formula to estimate the effect of higher prices on the demand for foods such as pastries, cakes, cheese and butter. However, they said their research only gave a rough guide to the number of lives that could be saved and said more work was needed to get an exact picture of how taxes could improve public health. Any 'fat tax' might be seen as an attack on personal freedom and would weigh more heavily on poorer families, the study warned. A food tax would raise average weekly household bills by 4.6 percent per person. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has previously rejected the idea as an example of the 'nanny state' that might push people away from healthy food. The Food and Drink Federation has called the proposed tax patronizing and says it would hit low-income families hardest. It suggests that people eat a balanced diet. The British Heart Foundation said it does not support the tax. "We believe the government should focus on ensuring healthy foods are financially and geographically accessible to everyone," it said. For more info, visit
Comments (5)
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Sounds like another way to get people's money to me. If they really didn't want people to buy those things they'd take them off the market.
People will complain about it and pay it anyway. Just like with cigarettes. We just need to try to be examples of how much better it feels to be healthy. I would be irritated if I were taxed on my Doritos, but the real question is where is that money going?
Especially in a country England where there is a national health service and most of the money is spent on fat people...let's let them pay for it by charging them for eating rubbish. We could also use the extra money to subsidize organic farmers. I'll be shocked if it happens but I am all for it! And let's face it, people who eat their way to obesity aren't free anyway.
There is a high price and tax to pay for cigarettes, but that does not seem to be stopping many people. One of the questions on my mind is what is considered unhealthy and warranted the "fat tax"? As Nikki said, chocolate and other foods in moderation are healthy for you. I think this sounds like a great idea at first, but when you stop and think about it, it's crossing the (freedom) line.
the tax is ridiculous. It is indeed a complete attack on personal freedom. Also, butter, cheese and even chocolates are not horrible for you when eaten in moderation. People who healthfully include these "fatty foods" in their diets are being punished for being "unhealthy." Will communities known for their fine baked goods be economically punished because even the healthy, skinny/fit/non-overeating tourists will not buy the outrageously priced goods? And if these bakeries won't be touched, then where is the line drawn? Only Ben and Jerry's and fast food joints will be taxed? Not too fair for business. Way way way waaaay too much government in our mouths.
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