There have been talks for some time to tax unhealthy food, but is it really a cure for obesity? Various items are already taxed, and the amount continually rises, in the hope to stop people from doing it. However, is adding taxes really an answer to the problem, or should something else be done to encourage healthy eating?
When talking to some people about eating junk food, takeouts and unhealthy options, the aim is to find something convenient. People get in after long days at work and want something that will take just a few minutes to cook. Some do not even want to cook food, so will order a takeout for the ease. That also cuts down on the amount of washing up that needs doing.
Taxes would not solve this issue. In fact, it would put the pressure on those who currently use convenience foods, which are often considered unhealthy options. It puts more strain on budgets as everything has to go up in price for the taxes, and that includes the cost of takeout dishes.
There is also the issue of healthy options not being that affordable for all. Buying enough food for meals usually means spending more upfront. While it costs less in the long run since the ingredients usually last a few meals, the upfront cost can be too much for some families to bear. If there is going to be taxes added to unhealthy foods to help cure obesity, surely the cost of healthy food needs to reduce. This is something that is being looked into and considered according to the recent United Nations report.
Once that issue is solved, there is the problem of deciding the type of food that is healthy and unhealthy. Anything in moderation is considered fine for people’s diets, and that includes the add packet of potato chips or bar of chocolate. While it encourages moderation to save money, it could lead to some people not getting treats at all.
Even if manufactured treats were off the menu, what about the ingredients to make cakes and other “unhealthy” items? Would flour become a taxable item because it can lead to something not found in a healthy diet? Milk can be used for unhealthy dishes, but is also an important part of a healthy diet. It is important to draw a line somewhere to help families afford the essentials.
Finally, more work needs to be done to prevent obesity through knowledge and information. Taxing food will do nothing without teaching people the dangers of overeating, and not eating the right types of foods. This is the same thing happening with smokers, as they learned the damage they were doing to their lungs from tobacco products. The report did touch on this aspect, and made it clear certain information needs to be shared to help people make better choices. There are too many “aggressive misinformation campaigns” at the moment. It is clear that until certain aspects are changed, taxing unhealthy food is not going to cure obesity as people will not understand why they should eat certain foods and the damage other foods are doing to their bodies.
Opinion by Alexandria Ingham