UBC students make case for “fat tax”
“Fat people are a huge cost to society.”
So goes the opening line of a paper prepared by four UBC students for an economics course.
While stating that they intended to make this politically incorrect pun, authors Aaron Kwok, Patrick Crawford, Matt Morley, and Dennis Wong also pointed out that they are trying to address what they see as a big problem these days: obesity.
According to the authors, people can be influenced to make healthy choices through one policy: a fat tax.
No, this tax isn’t meant to collect levies based on people’s weight or other measurements of obesity.
Much like taxes on alcohol and tobacco, two products that are proven to have adverse effects, a fat tax would cover food items that are considered unhealthy.
“This is not a proposal against fat people,” Kwok told the Straight in a recent phone interview. “This is an incentive for people to think about their choices, and say, ‘If you decide to have a consistent diet of unhealthy food, you have a cost to everyone else—to you, to me, to taxpayers who fund our health care system.’”
In the paper, the four students note that according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, one in four Canadians is now obese. That is double the obesity rate in 1981.
They also wrote that obesity is a $7.1-billion burden on the economy. That includes health and medical costs for conditions related to obesity.
“The first, and very important decision that must be made in the intervention process is determining which aspect of poor quality food is the best factor to attach the tax to, whether it be saturated fats, sugars, calorie counts or other factors of the food,” the students wrote. “The approach and method of implementation of a ‘fat tax’ would be similar regardless of the ingredient we choose to combat, but scope and level of the tax would depend on the ingredient chosen.”