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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.


Hell no with any new taxes of any kind. Obama has already turned this country into enough of a nanny state. No more big BROTHER!!!!!!

Posted by joe smails | Report as abusive

STOP!!!!!!!!!!!! This is going to far. Now, we are going to be policed, by the snacks we eat. This is too ORWELLIAN for me. I’ll just make my own goodies from now on. Good grief!

Posted by M. Manuel | Report as abusive

A better way to save money is to tax the nanny state believers who think that a wise paternal government is the answer to every problem and that the state needs to micromanage the lives of its childlike subjects.What are you people thinking? Or do you need the elites and the government to do your thinking for you?

Posted by RSweeney | Report as abusive

Yes. Basic economics.Simply put, when you consume junk, you hurt yourself. We all pay for that damage because when you get fat, you take advantage of services we all pay to provide. A tax forces you to realize the costs of your initial behavior.Academic way of putting it:Sugar and fat impose a negative externality for which the markets and personal decisions do not correct. A tax helps internalize the cost of the bad habit to those who partake.Example:Joe only drinks Coke and eats donuts. Joe gets obese. Joe gets on Medicare (or goes to the ER every now and then). Joe has these services pay for his health problems. Me and you are paying for these services….A tax on the cause of obesity would help Joe realize the costs of this lifestyle.BASICALLY – YOU’RE CHOICES AFFECT MY WALLET. Pay for your own fat, don’t make me.

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

After reading this entire blog I have come to see that there are an awful lot of sheep to be sheared in this glorious nation of ours.If you want to see where the future of this country is going read 1984 by George Orwell. I for one do not want any semblance of big brother in my country , state or city. I believe in personal liberty above all else. Someday all of you sheep will have your day in the sun and big brother will shear you just the same as all of the others.

Posted by obamanation | Report as abusive

YES because the taxes could be used to pay for the medical bills that all the overweight people end up with.If you eat that junk food then you should have to pay for the problems that you will end up with.

Posted by david trauger | Report as abusive

Has anyone noticed how many of the anti-Obama people never seem to use complete sentences or correct punctuation? They’re so convincing! And I quote:”I am in great shape and enjoy a regular soda and a bag a chips almost every day. The difference I work out. I think that we should start charging everyone a tax that doesn’t and that will pay for my gym and there increased health costs.”Case and point? Maybe they’re just too busy trying to keep government out of Medicare……ha!

Posted by T. Frakes | Report as abusive

Just tax sugar beet and cane.

Posted by Ralph Johnson | Report as abusive

First they came for the smokers, but I wasn’t a smoker, so I said nothing. Then they came for the beer drinkers, but I didn’t drink beer, so I said nothing. Now they are coming for me….

Posted by Bruce | Report as abusive

This is just the start, Cars,homes and maybe how much kids go to school and miss school could be next

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

CONTROL,CONTROL,CONTROL!!! Whether or not we are the ones who eat this kind of food or not. We are being IN THE CONTROL of the government! We use to be a free country, how free are we? Please everyone take a good look at your BIBLE it WILL tell you how this is just another part of what is to come.


One must never forget that the object of taxation will be food DEEMED to be «junk». If so required, non-skim milk could be declared «junk» and taxed. If one were to tax «junk» food because it is harmful then one would would expect a significant reduction in taxes applied to consumable items that are good for your health, red wine comes to mind …..

Posted by ian mason | Report as abusive

We dont need another tax, we need another boston tea party. Tax, Tax, Tax us into oblivion.

Posted by dave | Report as abusive

Noooooooo! get rid of taxes altogether. Ha ha ha

Posted by volleyball | Report as abusive

Good idea for schools and other public arenas for children and teens. Ditto fast foods outlets in schools. WAY too many obese kids who will have huge medical problems (like diabetes) in the future if they don’t get slim now AND will also be a big drain on the health care system as they age.Even if you’re physically active, kids are getting gall stones, ulcers, etc. from all the acid in sodas and parents who give their kids sports drinks (thinking they’re more healthy-not!) aren’t helping. Too much salt and sugar in those too!!! At least in school you can try and teach kids healthier options if their parents won’t. You have to start somewhere. Drink water at meals, juice once in a while and milk as needed and kids will be slimmer, healthier and their blood sugar won’t plummet…

Posted by Anna | Report as abusive

To Bob, who’s worried that a tax on soft drinks might lead to taxes on homes, cars, and kids going to school: Don’t know where you live, but in most places they already do tax homes and cars. I pay about $1500/yr on my house, another couple of hundred on the cars. Don’t think they tax kids yet, but maybe they should tax them for not going to school, and use that money for their later welfare payments.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

Tax this Tax that: Is that all the government can do any more? Overly restrictive laws and ever increasing taxes will hurt everyone in the long run including the government. Everyone please go home and pullout all your receipts and look at how taxes have multiplied over the past 20 years it is amazing. It robs us a little at a time. The government only worries about inflation but rarely ever says a tax will steal our buying power. When has inflation taken over half of what we make like taxes? Set down and make a list of all the things that are not taxed. I will bet it is a short list indeed.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

Look… it’s not a matter of whether it’s a free country or not.. it’s a matter of us, taxpayers, having to take the bill for obese people. An obese senior had 3 to 7 thousand dollars/year more in health costs then a non obese person. They also live just as long on average, meaning that we have to pay that bill longer. Most of seniors are on Medicare which means that the governent covers that bill quite a bit. Even if they aren’t on government health insurance, they are still taxing the insurance companies which will in turn raise premiums for the rest of us. I don’t think the tax should be extremely large but I think a little tax would be good to offset the cost that comes with obesity and also to encourage healthy eating.

Posted by Jimmy | Report as abusive

Taxing sugary drinks won’t provide the impact that a change to the Farm Bill would. Over-consumption of junk food (and fast food) affects lower income families most. Higher-income families are free to make healthier choices, and would be less affected by a small tax on soft drinks.Our government currently subsidizes corn, which drives the price down and makes high fructose corn syrup an attractive sweetener for soft drink and junk food producers. What we should do is reduce (and eventually remove) corn subsidies, allowing farmers to choose to grow more variety of foods, driving the price down for vegetables, etc. Veggies and good food are currently very pricey for lower income folks.Can people buy junk food with food stamps? That might be a good thing to look at too.

Posted by Chrod | Report as abusive

If you are gonna to tax people who put their health @ risk, then wouldn’t we also have to start taxing people who participate in sporting activities? Imagine how many people have broken bones from skiing, biking, football, hockey and other sports and thus driving up health care costs!

Posted by teflonsteve | Report as abusive

It is just wrong to use tax policy to punish politically unpopular products. Where does it end?Unless you are insured as part of the group I belong to, you do NOT pay for my choices! If I am obese and die early and you are a granola eating stick person who lives twenty years longer who really costs more?Obese Americans are not the problem, an obese government with an uncontrollable appetite for money is the problem. Obesity is just an excuse to increase revenues.

Posted by Stephen Kerner | Report as abusive

Heck, they did it to us smokers. Even occasional smokers are outcasts lately. Everyone is so self-righteous these days. You will all ultimately suffer the consequences of someone telling you what you should and should not be doing and then make you pay for it. Why not tax junk food? Let the obese diabetics get in on the party. They’re costing taxpayers plenty. Maybe we should fine people based on caloric intake. Let’s get the general population more involved here. Maybe we can tax alcohol next. I don’t drink. It won’t bother me. Nobody knows the trouble you will soon see.

Posted by junie j | Report as abusive

This is getting wayyyyyyy out of hand. What’s next? I know!!!! They should taxxxxxx all fluids. Reason being, with the consumption of fluids, there is an increase in urinating. With this increase,there are added flushes to the house-hold toilets,to allllll the house-holds in the nation. Wait, there it is again, with every flush, you have taxable fluids going down the drain. Exactly where the money the government gets JUST HAPPENS TO GO!!!!! Here is a hint. Quit spending and taking my money. I would at least like to do something freely.

Posted by Ed Christoph | Report as abusive

Sex should be taxed. It can be done in such a way that it really pays — for the government and for the emotional well-being of many. Here’s the scheme: people don’t value what’s free but give greater value to what costs more. So, mandate that each partner in sexual activity charge the other for sex, each will pay the other, and each will report the amount received to the government, which will tax that amount at say 5, 10 or 15%. Lists will be published. There will be much pride in reporting more received and more taxes paid for one’s sexual capabilities. “I paid XXXX in sex taxes” will be a boast heard many times. “Let’s help the government” will become the top pickup line in bars and offices.

Posted by Floyd | Report as abusive

Do it. We’ll be paying to keep the obese and unhealthy alive as they grow older as is. If we’re going to tax all other manners of unhealthy products might as well tax these as well.

Posted by Shea | Report as abusive

Good Grief. What in God’s name are going to think to tax next. Oh, I’ve got it, the air we breath. The mower I use to cut the grass in my yard because the county police say I have to cut my grass. I thought they wanted us to get some exercise.

Posted by Douglas Holbert | Report as abusive

Are any of you really dense enough to believe the extra revenue from this “sin tax” would be used for health care? Nancy Pelosi probably needs a new airplane. Or maybe we could have another brilliant idea like “Cash for Clunkers” to spread the wealth. Gosh, I just saw an illegal driving a 4 year old car! We can’t have that. Give them Cadillacs with all that tax money.

Posted by Olivia | Report as abusive

I just read a good one. Junk food and sodas should not be allowed to be purchased with food stamps. However, it is perfectly alright to use tax money to fund baby killing. I guess it’s because the more babies we kill, the less people will grow up to need healthcare dollars.I continue to be amazed at how depraved Americans really are.

Posted by Olivia | Report as abusive

Right, tax sugar at the same time that non-sugar sweeteners are found to have over 100 side-effects, including causing ADHD in kids and slow weight gain.

Posted by rick | Report as abusive

Why penalize responsible people who enjoy junk food every now and then?If the excuse is to save on medical costs, why not just let people be responsible for their own medical costs….either way their paying. Taxing only robs from the responsible and does little to discourage the irresponsible. The health care care cost argument is a good example of socialism leading to fascism; only more indirectly through taxation and income redistribution.

Posted by R Miller | Report as abusive

who are we …I have a neighbor who goes to the doctors at any whim….I am over weight….61 years old …and haven’t seen a doctor since 1971….how much am i taxing the system ,how about adding the cost to take care of all those weekend warriors…who mame themselves on a regular basis ….how much does it cost to rescue some lost hiker……life is life …..and if they do get away with this tax on soft drinks ,when will the extra taxes for beer drinkers,martini sippers and meat eaters ,a nd sushi eaters fom mercury poisoning ….it never stops something kills you thing for sure none of us are getting out of this alive….that is the one consistent about life …

Posted by john megna | Report as abusive

In California, we have a “CRV” which is a fee of about 4 cents that is added to beverages sold in bottles or cans. When the can is recycled, one theoretically gets back this fee; containers are weighed, not counted. The CRV generally makes the item taxable and the tax is added to the price of the product PLUS the CRV.The CRV induced me to stop buying soda and other bottled drinks. I only have soft drinks when I eat at restaurants, which is not often.I don’t think we need another tax here in California.I am uncertain of the morality of using sin taxes to pay for health care, because then we are in the position of people needing to consume the very products we say we do not want them to consume, in order to pay for health care.I would be content with the government just forcing health plans to stop discriminating against people who have pre-existing conditions. If we can afford the premiums, we should be able to get coverage.

Posted by walker | Report as abusive

This sounds great. While you’re at it, why not just tax all drinks and all food. Hell, start taxing the oxygen I’m breathing. Why don’t you tax the taxes too.

Posted by Xavier | Report as abusive

What pushes unhealthy food is advertising. Why not tax the billions in advertising? In that way, the corporations would directly suffer the tax and the consumers would feel it only indirectly.

Posted by Merik | Report as abusive

You don’t get fat and unhealthy from drinking soda. You get fat and unhealthy from EATING TOO MUCH!I guess the sugary drink hysteria is coming from the dopes who pay $1.50 for bottled water while they pollute the earth with plastic bottles. Did you ever hear of anyone dieing from a Coke ???

Posted by Joseph Fusco | Report as abusive

Yes, they should, just as they tax cigarettes and alcohol. You can have all the advertising in the world, but people only care about one thing: price. They should use the tax from junk food, to subsidize healthy food (not corn). That way we are all better.And all these people who hate the health care reforms, are so ignorant of how it works in most Western countries. They should get out a bit more, maybe read a bit more.

Posted by cak | Report as abusive

I do not agry with such policy.There are also light drinks for the people thar has weight problems.Sugar is goog for human brain.Sincerely,Mª Celia Fernández

Posted by Mª Celia | Report as abusive

The tax is not to take money out of your pocket, its supposed to act as an incentive to NOT eat so much junk food.Junk food has repeatedly been shown to be the cheapest calorie per dollar intake you can make and buy, and the tastes and additives (animal/plant oils & fats, simple carbs such as sucrose, fructose, flavor additives, etc) are specifically selected and added to make them as palatable as possible because of this. They are huge profit generators for their manufacturers – far more so than their healthy equivalents – which is why they are promoted and marketed so heavily. This is why taxes are being proposed – to make them equivalent or maybe even more expensive than better options, so you perhaps won’t select the 99c Cheetos as quickly over an apple next time.Now, the discussion about what happens to those dollars is completely separate – the idea-bankrupt politicians may use these tax revenues incorrectly (just as they do most other dollars today), but thats not an argument to say if taxing junk food is a bad idea or not. Perhaps you should be looking at other things they tax that are more questionable (taxes on basic goods and services come to mind – such as, anyone who tells me that phone/TV/internet are not basic services in 21st century USA are obviously not very realistic for example – why do I have to pay 10% USF and other taxes on this).Those of you who complain about sports injuries are just looking for any excuse because you want to feel less guilty about eating your Costco-sized bags of chips and 2 liter of cola. Look up the cost statistics of how much obesity costs the US, then compare to the cost of sports-related injuries – and then grow up. No-one is saying you can’t eat a burger and fries – they are simply saying you probably shouldn’t eat that every day (which is the case in thousands upon thousands of homes around the country – reference Eric Schlosser’s research if you’re curious – ation)100+ comments and I have barely read an intelligent one… perhaps they should use the tax revenue to educate people properly.

Posted by dazed and not confused | Report as abusive

Tax it. Part of the reason we have so many obese people, and why so much sugary and salty foods (fast food included) are consumed is because it’s so accessible and cheap. The additional money made, even if it’s a tax as small as 5 cents per item, can go toward funding things such as schools, libraries, roads or police. People act as though taxes are the bane of the American way of life, but people also don’t seem realize how much is really provided by the government thanks to our payment.

Posted by Kevin | Report as abusive

“one thing for sure none of us are getting out of this alive….that is the one consistent about life”- Posted by john megnaactually death AND taxes.. unfortunately


Americans have a serious health problem evident in a generally malnourished yet overweight population. Skin problems, depression, hair loss, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and countless other common ills are far more prevalent than in cultures with healthier diets (Korea or Japan). This is a serious public health issue that needs to be tackled for the sake of future generations.While some defend the consumption of junk food as a lifestyle choice they neglect to see their consumption largely as a product of enormous investment into advertising by the food and beverage industry. It is not fair or in the best interests for young children, generation after generation, to be indoctrinated into a lifestlye that inovlves daily consumption of substances that are harmful.Junk food should be taxed and the revenue should be used partly to campaign for a healthier lifestyle. 30 years ago, cigarette consumption was quite high among the US population and now its been dramatically reduced due to campaigning. The same can be done with junkfood.Let people eat junkfood, but as a choice. Not because its the only diet they know.

Posted by alejandro | Report as abusive

Wow. I think the larger problems with our diet come from the preservatives and artificial ingredients.I am allergic to corn and corn derivatives. So I don’t buy processed foods for the most part. I make my own. Under this proposal I can be charged extra when I buy a box of twinkies which is basically sponge cake with cream filling with preservatives and artificial ingredients or I can buy the basic components of a sponge cake (eggs, sugars, flour, heavy cream) and make my own. You would only be discriminating against those who lack the knowledge and foresight to make baked goods. So after you tax the twinkies, the “staples” will be next to be taxed.As others have mentioned if you want government intervention in what we eat the biggest thing is to end corn subsidies and prevent “convenience” foods from being purchased with food stamps. Seems pretty simple to me.

Posted by nika | Report as abusive

Why not tax video games so people get off their duffs and become active?

Posted by Paul Shockley | Report as abusive

As long as htey don’t tax chocolate, it’s Okay with me to tax all junk food and sodas.

Posted by toni | Report as abusive

I think junk food should be taxed but I think we should go a step further and base health insurance premiums (assuming universal coverage here) directly on weight with the higher rates calculated by body fat percentage. We already charge higher rates to smokers so lets charge overweight people for the increased cost of caring for them. Make everyone have their body fat measured yearly so they have to face the fact that they’re overweight and hurt them a little in the pocketbook and maybe people will do something about it.

Posted by Heather | Report as abusive

As someone who is obese & a non-smoker/non-drinker; I was for a tax on both cigarettes & alcohol–surprisingly, I am also for a junk food tax. Fast food is already taxed & if my chocolate bar goes towards helping folks without health insurance or beefing up the kevlar equipment for some of our troops overseas, I am all for it.

Posted by Chris Lach | Report as abusive

The Unabomber in his manifesto correctly predicted that the politically-correct, liberal-minded crowd would one day use the strong arm of government to tell us what we can and cannot eat and drink. Liberals were not content to place a cancer warning on cigarettes, they had to launch an all-out campaign to make smoking a moral rather than a health issue. When that didn’t work, they slapped on high taxes. According to the Unabomber liberals will never be content with the state of society. They must have a cause to fight for. They will try persuasion at first, but if that doesn’t work they will resort to force, that is, government. What are some of you who favor taxes on cigarettes, liquor, and fast food going to do when the liberals decide to put a stop to your favorite vice?

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive

One persons Junk Food is another persons nutrition. Junk food is in the tastbud of the consumer.In Obamaland EVERYTHING will be taxed!

Posted by PJ | Report as abusive

The healthy thing to drink is water. It is very dangerous that these sugary beverages are so cheap. Not only do they cause obesity in people of all ages, they contribute to the high rates of tooth decay in our community. I am FOR a tax based on the size of the beverage container, because it is an effective way to decrease the purchases of sweet beverages. The indigent population will benefit from the tax by drinking water instead of the sweet beverages, both because it is healthier and because it is MUCH less expensive.

Posted by J Gotlieb, MD | Report as abusive

Should junk food be taxed? In a word, NO!FIRST, junk food is made by businesses, large and small, and a tax on the products of ANY business means lost sales, lost revenues, and lost jobs. If we are to recover from this recession, we must focus on CREATING jobs in the private sector, not destroying them.SECOND, taxing junk food is another example of government trying to regulate our behavior. Government should stay out of the behavior regulation business (except in cases of behavior that is truly dangerous to others.)THIRD, our federal government should be constrained to spending within its’ means. We have been living on the taxes of future generations under Bush, and now Obama has made Bush look like a piker. raising taxes so that government can spend more foolishly is NOT the answer to America’s problems.Our federal government should concentrate on creating jobs in the PRIVATE SECTOR — and they should do this, at least in part, by granting tax breaks to small and medium-sized businesses. The private sector is where all wealth in America is created — government jobs do NOT create wealth, they simply erode the wealth created in the private sector. JOB CREATION in the PRIVATE SECTOR — among small and medium-sized businesses — is what is needed to pull America out of this recession.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

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