New call to tax junk food

No clear evidence quoted to show that the proposed taxes will have any effect on obesity. You know why? Because there IS NO such evidence -- none that I have seen after years of reading in the literature anyway. If you tax a particular food, it is basic economics that people will switch their preferences to other foods. People will just get the calories they want elsewhere. And a tax on salty food would be a real laugh. Are they going to confiscate all salt-shakers as well?

The article below makes vague reference to a study of salty foods that supports their case so I looked up the MJA to get the exact reference but the latest issue does not contain the article referenced. Maybe it has not yet been put online. I'm betting that the "study" concerned was either a simulation or the usual epidemiological crap -- such as this. Only a double blind study would settle the matter

More public health experts have joined the call for a tax on junk food, saying the existing focus on "individual behaviour change" will do little to curb surging rates of obesity. Ms Holly Bond, PhD candidate at the Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights, said more than 60 per cent of Australian adults and one in four children were now either overweight or obese.

Obesity had overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness, and yet government had so far resisted calls to adopt the same approach it championed for tobacco and alcohol. "Junk foods have the same pattern of misuse and the same social costs as tobacco and alcohol," said Ms Bond, from Monash University. "... We propose that a tax on junk food be implemented as a tool to reduce consumption and address the obesity epidemic."

Ms Bond said while many foods were high in sugar, salt and fat the tax could be applied to the "worst foods" in this category, those which had "little to no nutritional value such as potato chips, confectionary and soft drinks".

In an paper published in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia, she points to US research which found a 10 per cent increase in soft drink prices would reduce consumption by 8 - 10 per cent. Another study found a 10 per cent increase in the price of salty snacks could reduce a typical American’s body weight by up to half a kilogram per year, and generate $1 billion. [So salt makes you fat???] It also found a 10 per cent reduction in fruit and vegetable prices, subsidised using junk food tax revenue, would increase their purchase by 7 and 5.8 per cent respectively.

"Unsurprisingly, the US soda industry, which claims that such taxes would ‘hurt hard working, low and middle income families, elderly residents and those living on fixed incomes‘ would destroy jobs," Ms Bond said. "Arguments of this sort were raised by the tobacco industry when tobacco taxation was first proposed."

Ms Bond said the companies involved in the sale of junk food had a responsibility to their shareholders first and so would "resist any change" that could hurt profits even those "for the greater public good".

She said the Henry tax review emphasised the importance of tobacco taxes in reducing smoking (but it ruled out a junk food tax) while a recent National Preventative and Health Taskforce report did recommend a review of tax policy to encourage healthier eating. "The government will more likely continue to construct obesity as a problem of individual behaviour change rather than one requiring comprehensive interventions," Ms Bond said. "This approach aligns with industry objectives and ... the results will probably be the softest forms of regulation, such as voluntary targets."

Imposing a 10 per cent tax on all junk food was also a central plank of the ACE-Prevention report, released last month and backed by the Public Health Association of Australia.


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