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Fat tax won't change obesity rate

Posted by: Tom Elliott | 22 October, 2013 - 3:15 PM

An obesity expert says that Australia’s fat problem is now so bad that a prohibitive tax on junk food has to be considered by the Govt. That’s right – willpower can no longer do the trick, so McDonald’s has to become expensive instead.

At a conference last week, the former health advisor to Kevin Rudd, a man called Professor Rob Moodie, said that Australia’s battle with the bulge could no longer be fought using conventional means.

I’ll speak with Professor Moodie in a moment, but he seems to be saying that diet and exercise aren’t working because too many Australians simply lack the willpower to reduce their weight.

As a result of this, he suggests a variety of more extreme remedies, one of which is a prohibitive tax on junk food.

Now the campaign against cigarette smoking proves that if you make something sufficiently expensive, eventually people’s consumption of it will decrease.

But could what worked with Winnie Blues be applied to, say, McDonald’s?

I have my doubts.

For start, the lack of GST on fresh food already gives it a 10% head start over the junk variety – and this hasn’t changed people’s behaviour at all.

Second, many people on low incomes eat at places like McDonald’s precisely because it is cheap. Why should we sacrifice their living standards because other people can’t exercise self control?

And third, how do you even define what junk food is? After all, while it’s easy to point the finger at the Golden Arches, would a junk food tax also be applied to bakeries, fish and chip shops and four n’twenty pies?

There’s no doubt we have an obesity problem in this country. But imposing big new taxes is rarely an effective or popular way to change people’s behaviour.


Blog comments Your Say

  • As Tom said, would love to see how they are going to define junk food. The Supermarkets will be putting up a strong 'No' vote as their shelves are full of 'junk' food.

    Gloss Thursday 24 October, 2013 - 10:46 AM
  • A fat tax is just another financial imposition on the very people who generally canâ??t afford it. We keep focussing on fat & saturated fats etc, when the real culprit is sugar. They dropped the level of saturated fats & replaced it with sugar to give food taste, and weâ??re back to square one. Just check out the sugar levels on every day foods & youâ??ll understand why obesity is such a significant problem.

    Seaned Off Tuesday 22 October, 2013 - 8:48 PM
  • We already pay tax if we eat at restaurants.
    If we buy fresh food and cook it ourselves then there is no GST but if we eat out we pay GST so we are already paying it.
    They want us to pay twice?
    Money grabbing exercise, that's all it is.
    People eat at Maccas because it's cheap and that's all they can afford. What, they want people to starve now because healthy food is not cheap and many can't afford it any more.

    Peggy Tuesday 22 October, 2013 - 8:42 PM

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