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Should junk food be taxed?

September 2, 2009

Increasingly vocal calls for taxes on sugary drinks and junk food are fueling a behind- the-scenes battle that public health officials say is reminiscent of America’s war on cigarettes.

Fueling the debate are revenue-hungry federal, state and local governments officials who are eying a potential $50 billion windfall from taxes on over 10 years.

Take a look at the New York City Department of Health’s ad discouraging people from drinking sugary sodas, and let us know whether you think a junk food tax would be good public policy, or an intrusive step too far by the nanny state.


There’s nothing altruistic about it. NY’s motivation as always is greed.

Posted by Paul Zatley | Report as abusive

Tax sugar TAX IT, TAX IT!

Posted by john Ragin | Report as abusive

YES, if they can tax my cigarettes, then they should tax anything people consume that is deemed unhealthy, i.e. soft drinks, fast food, anything with Trans-Fats. For example, any product that has a %fat or %sugar content above X should be taxed.

Posted by RF | Report as abusive

Of course these things should be taxed, just like alcohol and cigarettes. The majority of major diseases in the US are the result of lifestyle choices, not factors beyond the control of most.The money from the taxes should be used to fund healthcare for these folks and the diseases they bring on themsleves.I am tired of seeing my tax dollars used to care for those who are unwilling to care for themselves through reasonable lifestyle (diet, exercise, etc) choices

Posted by mike | Report as abusive

Definitely, eventually the gov will figure out they need to go to a use tax system to keep their inefficiencies running along at slow speed. Until then they should tax “non-essential” consumables. There’s no need for that many carbs in one drink… it’s abused just like alcohol.

Posted by Marc Molnar | Report as abusive

It should not be taxed to pay for bloated, irresponsible government waste and deficits. Ad’s like this “encouraging” people to be healthy is a scam. If the state wants the tax revenues then they sure won’t want you to quit drinking them. Just imagine how much less revenue the states and feds would have if everyone quit smoking and drinking…… Talk about adding to the deficit!

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

The government needs to stay out of our lives and that includes WHAT WE EAT!!!!

Posted by Dennis | Report as abusive

I think that they should start with a tax on all advertising of junk foods. I realize that this would unfairly effect the advertising industry but the amount of commercials and promotions targeting unhealthy food and alcohol, especially those that target children really promote people to want bad food.

Posted by Paula | Report as abusive

Absolutely. Junk foods are like cigarettes – they are poisonous and ruin people’s health. Why tax cigarettes and not junk foods? They also should be banned from all school cafeterias and meal services.

Posted by jean | Report as abusive

Yes. The government has a direct responsiblity to encourage healthy public behavior. Taxation is a direct and effective means to discourage over comsumption of unhealthy food/drink items.

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

Not only should soda pop and juice drinks be taxed. More important, it should not be allowed to be bought with food stamps/cards from any government source of funds. Also denied should be all premade meals, just basic food that you cook yourself on food stamps. The money would sure go further.


Behavioral taxes never started a revolution, although revenue-raising taxes did (American Revolution, 1776, for example). Since the junk food tax is not the dangerous kind of tax, I sayTAX THE FATTIES!Think about it, its expensive to be fat.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

Taxes use to be a citizen responsibility for the operation of the government. Now, with our hard earned tax money, we are the ones supporting the government!Anytime the government says that it wants to tax something for your own good or your health – think twice. It ain’t your health they’re worried about, it’s their over inflated budgets!

Posted by Yewbee | Report as abusive

Taxes are shackles of government control. Let the people be free.

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

i wish we could actually RID society of all junk food and drink. That would eliminate the advertising problem too. Failing this, a tax is the next best thing. I agree with mike above, why should those who take care of themselves fund the medical care of those who choose an unhealthy lifestyle.

Posted by renate | Report as abusive

RF-”For example, any product that has a %fat or %sugar content above X should be taxed.”Changing the lable so a 16oz bottle of coke has 3 servings in it would be an easy way to skate that. No one would ever have to pay it.The trouble with a tax like this is where to draw the line. Sodas don’t cause obesity like cigarettes cause cancer. “junk food” is way too broad a term. It would end up unfairly targeting certain industries (soft drinks, hershey) and ignoring others like the frozen, fried, processed chicken section. It’d be like taxing prerolled and filtered cigarettes but not chewing tobacco.


Sound like a good idea as long as the money goes to offset the health costs.

Posted by Milt | Report as abusive

Sure it should be taxed…i work in healthcare….Obesity is an especially heinous disease in that it not only endagers the patient….but the caregivers working with them…at best,,,damage to our backs lugging around an ugly fat ass….at worst..having one fall on you as you try turning them on their side with a bed rail down.

Posted by Ricardo | Report as abusive

Absolutely TAX it.In addition to this there should be a major food labeling initiative.E.g. Genetically modified food should be clearly labeled. As a consumer I have right to know what I am buying.How about 11 degrees (from +5 to -5) helthiness scale for all food? +5 being the most healthy, 0 – neutral, -5 most unhealthy.

Posted by PwlM | Report as abusive

TAX TAX TAX TAX. Just another way to create revenue. Give me a break….do you really think “they” care about us? Taxing us because they care? NO it is about $$$. Nothing more.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

Enough is enough. I eat snacks,(chips and what-have-you), and have sodas when I want. I drink beer and I have not gained a pound in over 30 years. And yes, I weigh 120-125 lbs and am 5’6″. I have to wear girls/womens size 1,2,3 size jeans. There are no mens/boys jeans that fit me right. This is another bogus form of increasing taxes on the middle class when there are bigger fish to fry. So the government just needs to butt out of the meddling of our lives.


I think we are quickly reaching the limit of taxation and we will have a change in government if we continue. Carbohydrates is what the body uses for energy. We might want to teach people to smoke, drink, and eat in moderation, and we might want to help the overweight youngsters in school. The height to weight charts that the doctors tought are bogus.(Light and Heavy frames exist) We also might want to stop the advertizing that a growing child can have a small shake for breakfast and that should last until lunch.

Posted by f belz | Report as abusive

It is a good topic to discuss. why not tax people who produce sugar, corn resulting in high fructose corn syrup, bees for producing honey, beet farmers, sugarcane producers, fruit producers and host of other companies like candy manufacturers, soda bottlers, lazy people and all the fast food processors and while we are at it also who produce carbon dioxide producers which could include energy producers, car manufacturers, people using more than nominal electricity ( consumers with increased electricity use, cities with large usage of electricity and so on and so forth). why stop there we should also tax animal farm which also contribute to the obesity problem and even people who exercise too much along with people who do sedentary work, that would would produce multiple stream of income resulting in us becoming a nanny state so that from the time we get up to when we go to sleep and how much we sleep and we all would need constant watch on us. While we are at it overcrowded cities produce have more carbon foot print to sparsely populated areas where there is too much waste of natural resources to support few people living in comfort. In other words why not define the level of comfort and above and beyond minimal need everything which is considered sparse living should be taxed.Next question is what are we going to do with all the money we would collect and should we spend it or make an account and who gets say in using the money and in what form and whose use it should be labeled and spent on, not the bureaucrat who would love to use it for their use and waste it as they have done in recent times.This is the Pandora’s box I would like to see how it functions and who would really benefit from it.

Posted by VJ | Report as abusive

Look. Yes, we tax cigerettes in an attempt at socila manipulation. But I do not believe that taxes should be used for Social Conditioning. Taxes should only be used to raise revenue. Targeted taxes where the revenue matches the taxed good? Not a good enough criteria. A tax on cigarettes (and includes other products) for research into better air filtering technologies? Ok, with the caveat presented. Taxing cigarettes to pay for anti-smoking campaigns? Not good. That is social conditioning. We want people to stop eating candy and drinking soda, so we are going to generate a revenue stream that the state/federal governments wont EVER want to loose? That is not the way to go about it. As an aside, candy and soda(those made without corn syrup) can be (in small amounts) healthy for you. Emotionally. Which most many nutritional scientists will tell you is a component of nutrition, in addition to the physical aspects.

Posted by James Burkhardt | Report as abusive

Its the same idea with Carbon Taxing people. This wont change behaviors it will just mean people will have to pay to pollute and pay to become unhealthy. This will not PREVENT anything. People need EDUCATION and Options

Posted by tool | Report as abusive

If cigarettes and sugar drinks are sooo unhealthy and bad for people, then why doesn’t the government simply ban those foods? But I guess the foods are just evil enough to get a tax (banning them would produce no revenue!). What a crock.Better yet, its a bunch of liberals, those free thinking, my body-my choice folks who demand the government stay out of one’s bedroom but ask the government to intrude on our kitchen?I’m healthy, fit, athletic, and do not want the government to tax me when I want an ice cream cone or a cool, refreshing soda every now and them. Simply make fat, obese people pay the full cost of their health-care. That would encourage responsibility. Republicans and Democrats both want to use the power of the goverment to FORCE people to do the things they want, both are hypocritical. OPEN YOUR EYES, vote Libertarian.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

Please define Junk Food and who will determine that. Im afraid it will be a polical definition.

Posted by Gary Maxie | Report as abusive

Enough with the taxation already. Actually in most states you already pay sales tax on soda and chips and the like. How about no new taxes and reduce what we currently have. Social engineering experiments are not what we need but maybe education and more activity.

Posted by Rob | Report as abusive


Posted by Emily | Report as abusive

This is a great idea and a good start. Set up a “tax the bad stuff” CZAR and have a “It’s bad” tax police. Everything the Government finds out or thinks is bad — tax it. Tax Whole milk. Tax fatty red meat. Tax dark chicken meat. Tax butter and Crisco. Tax large sales of everything — since too much of anything is bad. You could test for and tax excessive flatulation emissions. Hey, I know, lets just tax the “Bad” People. Bad people are bad and ulitimately bad for the public health. If the researchers make a mistake then tax the bad research on bad stuff. Maybe tax by the word bad editorial comments.Where does it stop?

Posted by bill | Report as abusive

I have to take issue with those who post the government has a direct responsibility, or even indirect responsibility on this or most any subject. The government of the US has no responsibility when it comes to the citizens making decisions regarding their lifestyle. It is very clear in the Constitution what the government has responsibility for and we have let them over-reach for years allowing them to use the commerce clause far beyond what was intended as well as the general welfare. Those terms were once well understood to be very restrictive and not as some, especially those who want some type of control over our lives, ie the nanny police, want them interpreted today.

Posted by Rob | Report as abusive

A government’s job is to boss people around, in order to achieve a goal. Social manipulation through taxes is an effective method in achieving a goal … as well as raising revenue. In this case, the people benefit too, by possibly drinking less sugary drinks and eating less junk food. Who wants to be sick and unhealthy? Tobacco is taxed, and almost nobody complains about that. There are excise taxes on gasoline too.


I’m wondering if there is any member of Congress that is saying we are going to identify waste, cut excess spending and slim down the size of government and return the associated cost savings to the taxpayers (a paid for stimulus!) These people only speak spend, spend and more spend followed by tax, tax and more tax.Somebody call a cop!

Posted by HenE | Report as abusive

this is just a ruse by the obamanation to disguise tax increases. Just say NO to more taxes and let them manage the funds they have in a reasonable way. They can’t financially manage their way out of a paper bag, why give them more money to waste??

Posted by brilynn | Report as abusive

YES!!!Of course a few years back I would have said no; But then I am a Smoker and I now want my revenge. I do not drink soft drinks, nor do I eat “junk food” or fast food. PAYBACK TIME !Truthfully -I cant think of a more anti-American act than the attempt to control our behavior with taxation. Its hard for me to understand the voter sell outs that imposed the taxes on my cigarettes. I’m sure they “feel” good for thier actions, We smokers however must pay for thier kind act with real hard earned cash each time we light up. Political Thieves. Every time the government takes tax dollars they take away our time as it is time that produced them.Be Careful America


Dont tax food,tax people over the already established US gov paramiters for obese people.For every pound over healthy standards ,faty should pay.Cigarette smokers pay for their habit,so should glutons.If chubby has a medical condition exempt him/her.Otherwise step away from the buffet table.

Posted by neil | Report as abusive

Why is it that taxes are the bane of all mankind? I wonder if people think that our roads are magically built or our schools are funded by the teachers them selves. Granted our gov’t makes mistakes, don’t you, or are you the next coming of christ.

Posted by MIke | Report as abusive

YES! Please tax junk food. A few pennies on a can of pop or a bag of chips can hardly be called intrusive. I don’t care if it stops people from drinking pop or eating chips (I doubt it will, since people still buy plenty of name brand junk food instead of the much cheaper store brands), but if the money from the tax goes to pay for the higher health care costs resulting from people’s junk food diets, that seems the most reasonable way to make people pay for the consequences of their choice to eat what they please without making healthy eaters bear the cost as well. Cigarette and alcohol tax proceeds should be used for the same thing.

Posted by Janie | Report as abusive

Why would the government place a tax on these items when they can be purchased with food stamps. I realize only the hard up use food stamps but why should food stamps be used for anything like snacks, soft drinks, ice cream or other deserts.

Posted by tom | Report as abusive

Yes! Absolutely, we tax cigs and alcohol now, so why not junk food? One reason why so many people are overweight is because these foods are less expensive then healthy foods. We as a nation need to start losing some serious weight if we don’t want our healthcare system to collapse. (It’s on the fast road to that now.) One reason for rising costs is increasing waistlines. Excess weight is linked to a number of costly, chronic diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes, etc.). As people grow fatter our healthcare costs go up, and folks who do the right thing subsidize folks who don’t by paying higher premiums. That is hardly fair.

Posted by BB | Report as abusive

Absolutely..yes!Cigarette tax was for SCHIP ..purportedly for children’s health..fat kids are not healthy kids and will be a drag on the health care system for life. Tax all those junk foods and soda pop stuff to the hilt! Ain’t Karma great.

Posted by Inez Jadu | Report as abusive

TAX! TAX! TAX! Let’s try another approach.This is just an excuse to raise more money for bureaucrats and ‘do good’ advertisements, a la the cigarette fiasco. Some people are still smoking cigarettes at $8-$9 per pack, while dying at a national rate of around 400,000 per year.If a substance or habit is proven unhealthy, we should BAN IT! Even if a black market develops, it will completely eliminate usage for some people, at least.Or, can technology be developed to create some sort of ‘smart card’ required to buy harmful products (along with a tax) which can then be used to pay future health care as needed for each individual user? Let the obese and/or smoker ‘prepay’ their own health care!If a user never needs acute care for the exact medical problem(s) caused by his choices of harmful products, he can apply for a ‘retro(active) refund’ in his latter years or add to his pension payout.Is it not possible? Let’s think beyond the box a little!

Posted by Al | Report as abusive

All takeout food should be taxed. All chips, cookies, and the like, should be taxed. In other words, unless you’re buying staples like bread, milk, fruit, veggies, eggs, meat, etc., it should be taxed.

Posted by Mears | Report as abusive

yes, tax everything they can. The government needs money. Tax just enough so people still buy it and pay the tax, but not enough to actually stop drinking it. ( just like cigarettes )

Posted by Mike G | Report as abusive



Absolutely not. This is just another government intrusion into the personal decisions made by adults for themselves or for their children. Whether it is smoking, fast foods, soda, candy or anything else I don\’t need or want some government nanny (who is probably as fat as an elephant, as government workers often are) telling me what I should or shouldn\’t do.

Posted by AlexU | Report as abusive

As a society we should all be in this together. Just as universal healthcare should be a right, anything that imposes undue burden on the people should also be dealt with.Unhealthy behaviors should be absolutely allowed. I do not favor a nanny state. However, the burden should not be on the people if i choose to smoke then need expensive care.So the answer is deterministic. Get impartial research. Find out how much money any given unhealthy non-necessity impacts the people and tax accordingly to offset the cost.Personally, i drink alcohol/soda, smoke, and eat the occasional bag of chips. These activities are all luxuries. All can be bad for me if the prevailing research is to be believed. As such it only seems reasonable for me to be responsible for such things.This said, i would expect any tax to come with back up data which clearly justifies its existence.

Posted by fred | Report as abusive

I feel that taxing, in general is wrong. What is a real solution is to remove the eligibility of these foods from any government program. Welfare, food stamps etc… any help that comes from the taxpayer, should only buy regular food. No snacks, drinks, chips stuff like that. People don’t have a right to these things. Good food is what they need. So, we would save more than the tax would bring in, if we were to stop allowing people to get these items on the tax payers dime. Chefrubeo

Posted by David Rubeo | Report as abusive

Why stop at Junk food. I say the FDA should seriously Consider a “Food Value” Ratings Mark on all food products in the grocery stores.. let me explain.If you could walk down the Isle and could see a Mark Using an A thru F scale Based Higher Nutrition content. where Foods such as raw Broccoli get an “A” and Modern over processed Foods like Kiddie’s Sugary breakfast cereal or sugary Soft Drinks get an “F” 1. Sugar content 2. Fat Content saturated/unsaturated/calories 3. Fiber Content 4. Vitamin Content. and 5 Salt or Sodium content. and Force all manufacturers to make the letter Large and on front of the package or display … we could Compare the a’s, b’s, c’s, d’, etc against each other ( knowing we should be trying to eat more of the “A” foods and stay away more from the “F” foods. and since you at it Tax FATS, SUGARS, SALTS, lack of FIBER CONTENT. as a percentage of “Nutritional Value” based of FDA and CSPI ( Center for Science in the Public Interest) Guidelines, and you would see these jokers begin to remove the excessive Sugars, Fats and Salts from these foods in an effort to reduce the tax they pay and get a Better “Mark” A-F on the front of their packages. A revolution in the Sugar, Salt, Fat, Fiber, content in foods must be put on the front burner at the FDA for REAL change to take Place.

Posted by Wilson Graham | Report as abusive

HELL NO. We pay enought taxes now. Right now about 42% of our earning goes to some form of taxes. I say NO NO NO. and any congressman/senator, govenor, ect. that support this stupid idea should pay the price in 2010 elections. Where will this stop. I’m tired of the goverment sticking their noses into thing where it dose not belong. If I was them I would be very careful cause that nose can get bit off

Posted by wolf on a roadking | Report as abusive

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