The philosophy behind the Fat Tax

  • #1
Ivan Seeking
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Well, I've been predicting this for years. What's really at issue is the basic question of whether or not we should, as a deterrent, tax people for making poor choices in their lifestyle. We have done this with smoking and alcohol, and in the case of seat belts and motorcycle helmets, we have passed laws. The logic that follows is inescapable: This should apply to all poor choices that can lead to costs to society.

Every day on Planet Earth, 25,000 people die of starvation. Given this startling reality, one might be forgiven for wondering why the most controversial issue on the agenda of last week's World Health Organization meeting was the size of our love handles. Yet the venerable global health body practically begged for this fight. WHO's anti-obesity strategy includes a call for "fat taxes" on hot dogs, candy, and the like. The Bush Administration won the right to amend WHO's plan after charging that it neglects "the notion of personal responsibility." Predictably, defenders of the fat tax cried foul.

Most notably, the self-described "food police" at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) accused the Administration of "sabotage." They consulted on WHO's plan, and the fat tax is the crown jewel of their anti-obesity policy. "We could envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses, [and] meat," says CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson. [continued]
http://www.consumerfreedom.com/news_detail.cfm/headline/2336

How far does the logic extend? Should we be taxed on the distance driven each day and the associated risk with the chosen route, safety rating of the car, quality of tires, etc? Or perhaps we should simply assign a more general notion a "risk tax" that goes with everything sold and all activities.

The point is that either this unfairly targets one group or another, or it applies equally to everyone.

Edit: Crud, I just noticed that this is not the current story. CNN is reporting on this but I didn't see any links yet.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Pengwuino
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Discrimination, plain and simple.

What next, a violence tax? a tax on rap albums, violent video games, knives, violent movies? A noise tax? tax on rap albums again haha, large stereos, musical instruments?

Wait! Cars are dangerous! A car-safety tax! On all foods, cell phones, drinks, anything that can be hung on a mirror, air-fresheners!
 
  • #3
dav2008
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Pengwuino said:
Wait! Cars are dangerous! A car-safety tax!
They have those. They're called tickets.
 
  • #4
Averagesupernova
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Well since no one can make a final decision about which things we put in our body actually are bad for us then I'd say this can't fly. Take for instance eggs. 20 years ago eating an egg a day was considered next thing to suicide. Now the story has changed.
 
  • #5
I would tend to say that there should be no such tax. It would be impossible to implement. Besides, I need fat. I need candy. If you want people to be healthier, raise the gasoline tax and make them walk to work.
 
  • #6
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Pengwuino said:
violent video games,
There already starting there fineing kids if they buy violent video games.
 
  • #7
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Tax: a charge (usu. of money) imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.

Sanction: a measure (as a threat or fine) designed to enforce a law or standard.

The WHO wants to impose sanctions:surprised
 
  • #8
Pengwuino
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scott1 said:
There already starting there fineing kids if they buy violent video games.

i thought they're not suppose to in the first place.
 
  • #9
russ_watters
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There is no slippery slope here. Seatbelt laws, mandatory insurance, and cig taxes serve useful purposes and are completly Constitutional. Ironically, these are a biproduct of people shirking their personal responsibility: ie, since we've decided that if necessary, the general public will pay the medical bills of an idiot who doesn't wear a seatbelt, it directly follows that we must make wearing seatbelts mandatory. Remove the free healtcare and the mandatory seatbelts, insurance, and cig tax go away.

Adding more crutches for the shirking of personal responsibility will go on a case by case basis under the same logic. Since, unlike with smoking, fatty food can be eaten without damaging your health, I suspect this one won't fly.

Modern liberalism is the cause of this. Modern liberals want to have their government protection but don't want to have to be responsible enough to deserve it. Sorry, it doesn't and can't work that way. Its both or neither.
 
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  • #10
Pengwuino
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How can you say its not a slippery slope? If all these things are constitutional, whos to say where it can stop? It does all have to do with responsibility; how far do we go and who gets to decide where our responsibilities end and where they begin? Who gets to decide our culture? I mean some might even say when you start taxing food, you've already fallen down that slope.
 
  • #11
Hurkyl
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I thought Russ gave a fairly clear criterion for stopping. :tongue:
 
  • #12
Pengwuino
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I'm not seeing it. I've needed pictures drawn out for me all day though.
 
  • #13
Moonbear
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Ivan Seeking said:
How far does the logic extend? Should we be taxed on the distance driven each day and the associated risk with the chosen route, safety rating of the car, quality of tires, etc?
Well, I already pay based on all those criteria (except the tires), but it's to my insurance carrier, not the government, though it's the government that requires I pay the insurance carrier. :rolleyes:

I'm annoyed that people get a tax BREAK for getting fat then trying to lose the weight (i.e., the deduction for health club memberships)...why don't I get a tax break for staying healthy and active so I don't need to run around on treadmills? I lean toward Russ' viewpoint on this one, that it's one or the other; we either subsidize health care and penalize people who bring those costs up with their bad habits by taxing those habits, or we let them pay their own way when they choose to indulge their habits. Though, to me, I don't care if they tax junk food. If you don't eat much of it, it won't cost you much extra. Though, if they're going to do that, the tax should be by the gallon for soda, not by price. :devil: (Sorry, it's a current sore spot...I was just traveling, and on the way home stopped at Wendy's for lunch...they've just increased their sizes again! What used to be a medium drink is now a small, and small is economy...I was tired and cranky, and my cup holder isn't that big, so I just let the store manager have it: "Who on Earth needs that much soda with a single meal?! What is now a medium is enough to last me a week! Why can't they make smaller portions rather than larger? I'm not paying more to throw away most of it! No wonder kids can't sit still and pay attention in school and everyone is so fat if they drink a half gallon of soda in a sitting!" [/off topic rant])

When I'm not being grouchy with a knee-jerk reaction to over-consumption of fast food and insane portion inflation, I go back to my more usual opinion that if you want to eat junk and be unhealthy, it's your body to do with as you want. We're already taxed for things we put in our body that have no nutritive value at all, but it would be hard to argue a dividing line between junk food and non-junk food, because it really all depends on how much you eat and what else you eat with it.
 
  • #14
Hurkyl
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I'm not seeing it. I've needed pictures drawn out for me all day though.
You tax behaviors for which society is absorbing the cost of the consequences.

You can tax cigarettes because cigarette usage lead to health problems, which lead to smokers requiring health care, which (in the current system) leads to Joe Q. Public paying for Pierre D. Smoker's health care.

You can't tax twinkies because twinkie usage does not lead to health problems, or anything else that would cause there to be some cost that Joe Q. Public would have to pay.
 
  • #15
Moonbear
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Hurkyl said:
You can't tax twinkies because twinkie usage does not lead to health problems, or anything else that would cause there to be some cost that Joe Q. Public would have to pay.
You picked Twinkies for that example? :uhh: I'm not sure there's any redeeming value to Twinkies. :biggrin: How about pretzels? Or white bread? Or chocolate chip cereal bars? I think those get the point across better. None of them is inherently bad, and can be eaten as part of a healthy diet, but if you over eat any of them, or don't balance them with other healthy things, then they become junk food.
 
  • #16
Ivan Seeking
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russ_watters said:
There is no slippery slope here. Seatbelt laws, mandatory insurance, and cig taxes serve useful purposes and are completly Constitutional.

Who said that it wasn't Constitutional? And you have said nothing to suggest that this isn't a slippery slope.

Ironically, these are a biproduct of people shirking their personal responsibility: ie, since we've decided that if necessary, the general public will pay the medical bills of an idiot who doesn't wear a seatbelt, it directly follows that we must make wearing seatbelts mandatory. Remove the free healtcare and the mandatory seatbelts, insurance, and cig tax go away.

And what of those who pay their medical bills? Should they be exempt?

Adding more crutches for the shirking of personal responsibility will go on a case by case basis under the same logic. Since, unlike with smoking, fatty food can be eaten without damaging your health, I suspect this one won't fly.

How much fat may be consumed? At some point it clearly is a problem. Why should I pay [through my insurance] for some guy who sits at Wal Mart eating hot dogs?

Modern liberalism is the cause of this. Modern liberals want to have their government protection but don't want to have to be responsible enough to deserve it. Sorry, it doesn't and can't work that way. Its both or neither.

The cause of what? With all the rhetoric I can hardly tell what your point is.
 
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  • #17
Pengwuino
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Hurkyl said:
You tax behaviors for which society is absorbing the cost of the consequences.

You can tax cigarettes because cigarette usage lead to health problems, which lead to smokers requiring health care, which (in the current system) leads to Joe Q. Public paying for Pierre D. Smoker's health care.

You can't tax twinkies because twinkie usage does not lead to health problems, or anything else that would cause there to be some cost that Joe Q. Public would have to pay.

That's completely false. Smoking in of itself is not dangerous. You're body isn't going to freak out if you have a cigarette every week or so (and yes i know this is as common as eating 1 potato cihp). It's when you smoke a pack, 2, or 3 a week or a pack daily :grumpy: where people readily becoming a public health issue. I can drink a soda every day or 2 and i won't really be a risk to the public health system. Start downing a 2 liter a day and yah, you're now probably going to become a health care issue.
 
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  • #18
SOS2008
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It's not just the consumer that must be held responsible. Crappy food is cheaper to produce. At fast food restaurants, it would be great if they had to display the total fats and calories with each number meal. Also if they were required to provide healthier options, such as having a choice between roasted chicken and breaded deep-fried chicken.

Those who would ignore the stats and choose the less healthy meals do cost us all, regardless of if they pay for their own health care. Many become delinquent on their medical bills, often filing bankruptcy. How do you think these debts are covered? It is passed on to other consumers.

There are some companies that won't even hire smokers because it results in higher health care costs. Schools are already removing sugary sodas from vending machines, and some are re-implementing physical education. Requirements for nutrition labels have become more strict over time. I support these efforts.

I would prefer that people who make unhealthy choices just paid higher premiums for their health insurance (like people with bad driving records for their auto insurance). But health insurance would have to be mandatory like auto insurance. Otherwise there would just be more and more uninsured people, which is already a problem because of the already high cost for medical care.
 
  • #19
Pengwuino
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Corporations shouldn't have to pay for citizen's stupidity. If you go to a fast food restaurant and want a healthy alternative.... don't eat there. Simple as that. Does our whole society need to guide people's every decision? What next, forcing mcdonalds to have kosher meals?
 
  • #20
Moonbear
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Pengwuino said:
That's completely false. Smoking in of itself is not dangerous. You're body isn't going to freak out if you have a cigarette every week or so
Actually, that's the false statement. The effects of cigarette smoking are cumulative. A cigarette every week or so does impart a substantial health risk. Not as much as smoking a pack a day, but more than if you never smoked at all.
 
  • #21
Ivan Seeking
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Moonbear said:
Actually, that's the false statement. The effects of cigarette smoking are cumulative. A cigarette every week or so does impart a substantial health risk. Not as much as smoking a pack a day, but more than if you never smoked at all.

However, IIRC, about 30% of regular smokers will never have any significant problems before something else gets them. :biggrin:

Here is a good starting point for developing a tax structure.
The table below was prepared in response to frequent inquiries, especially from the media, asking questions such as, "What are the odds of being killed by lightning?" or "What are the chances of dying in a plane crash?"

The table has four columns. The first column gives the manner of injury such as motor-vehicle crash, fall, fire, etc. The second column gives the total number of deaths nationwide due to the manner of injury in 2002 (the latest year for which data are available). The third column gives the odds of dying in one year due to the manner of injury. The fourth column gives the lifetime odds of dying from the manner of injury. Statements about the odds or chances of dying from a given cause of death may be made as follows: [continued]
http://www.nsc.org/lrs/statinfo/odds.htm

Looking at the data, it seems that we need a tax rate for dying by unspecified means. :biggrin:
 
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  • #22
Pengwuino
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Moonbear said:
Actually, that's the false statement. The effects of cigarette smoking are cumulative. A cigarette every week or so does impart a substantial health risk. Not as much as smoking a pack a day, but more than if you never smoked at all.

Does it do enough damage so that the effects become noticable on our public health care system? Would 2 groups of equals show any distinct increase in tobacco related illness if one had a cigarette once every week or 2?
 
  • #23
Averagesupernova
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Ivan Seeking said:
Should we be taxed on the distance driven each day and the associated risk with the chosen route, safety rating of the car, quality of tires, etc? Or perhaps we should simply assign a more general notion a "risk tax" that goes with everything sold and all activities.

You already are taxed on the distance driven each day. Indirectly you are anyway. The tax on gasoline is used to maintain roads. I'm not sure where else it goes. The farther you drive, the more you pay. It's not perfect, but if you don't move, you don't pay.
 
  • #25
Moonbear
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Pengwuino said:
Does it do enough damage so that the effects become noticable on our public health care system? Would 2 groups of equals show any distinct increase in tobacco related illness if one had a cigarette once every week or 2?
That counts as "regular" tobacco use. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has progressed to regular, but infrequent use who does not increase their frequency of use to daily, then several times daily, as their addiction increases. Nicotine is highly addictive.

For example:
Chassin L, Presson CC, Sherman SJ, Edwards DA. The natural history of cigarette smoking: predicting young-adult smoking outcomes from adolescent smoking patterns. Health Psychol. 1990;9(6):701-16.

Assessed the magnitude of risk that adolescent cigarette smoking carries for adult smoking. Using a longitudinal, prospective design, results indicate that even infrequent experimentation in adolescence significantly raises the risk for adult smoking and that regular (at least monthly) adolescent smoking raises the risk for adult smoking by a factor of 16 compared to nonsmoking adolescents. Relative risk was also increased by an early onset of smoking and by a stable, uninterrupted course from experimentation to regular smoking. Relative risk did not significantly vary by age or sex. The continuity of smoking behavior between adolescence and adulthood supports the importance of primary prevention programs directed at adolescent populations.

Anyway, I think continuing further on this would lead astray from Ivan's original question.
 
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