'Twinkie tax' worth a try in fight against obesity

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by -Cp, Dec 15, 2004.

  1. -Cp
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    -Cp Senior Member

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    http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2004-12-01-obesity-edit_x.htm

    'Twinkie tax' worth a try in fight against obesity
    By Suzanne Leigh

    What do our widening waistlines have to do with airline debts?
    More than you might expect. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that passengers' weight in 2000, when compared with that of the previous decade, has led to airlines spending an estimated additional $275 million to burn an extra 350 million gallons of fuel.

    The consequences of obesity are affecting more than our health. The time is ripe to reconsider the much-maligned "Twinkie tax."

    The concept was pioneered 10 years ago by Kelly Brownell, director of Yale's Center for Eating and Weight Disorders. He proposed that revenue from junk-food taxes be used to subsidize more healthful foods and fund public-awareness campaigns. A national tax of 1 cent per 12-ounce soft drink would generate $1.5 billion annually, he estimates. Revenue also would be generated from taxes of 1 cent per pound of candy ($70 million), chips ($54 million) and other snack foods or fats and oils ($190 million).

    Idea gets new life

    The idea hasn't gotten much traction, but it was revived last year when New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz proposed taxes on junk food and entertainment contributing to sedentary lifestyles to fund nutrition and exercise programs.

    The Twinkie tax has been deemed preposterous by people who believe that our pants size is none of the government's business.

    But why not try it? Obesity has become an epidemic, and as Jeffrey Koplan, former CDC director, put it in 2000, "We need to respond as vigorously to this epidemic as we do to an infectious disease epidemic." The problem is we haven't. As far as being viewed as a potentially fatal condition that requires prompt intervention, obesity is becoming more sociably acceptable.

    Witness the growing numbers of outsize fashions to "flatter a fuller figure," an online dating service for overweight singles, and a "size-friendly" Mexican resort.

    Despite indications of complacency, the government and the food industry have made strides in fighting fat. Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued recommendations on improving food labeling by displaying the calorie count more prominently and using "meaningful" serving sizes. Last year, Kraft, which manufactures cookies as well as other foods, said it would stop marketing its products in schools and reduce the size of some of its individually packaged snacks.

    Tougher action required

    Even so, these measures are peanuts when it comes to tackling obesity with the force it warrants. Requiring better labeling and calorie counts in restaurants would have been a better FDA strategy.

    As for Brownell's proposal: That 1-cent tax may lead consumers to pause, if briefly, to consider the consequences of their junk-food purchases and perhaps turn to more healthful alternatives.

    More important, though, the tax would provide an urgent financial incentive for food manufacturers and fast-food restaurants to revise nutritional content. They clearly need to. More than 11,000 food products were introduced in 1998; about 75% of them were candies, condiments, breakfast cereals, baked goods, beverages and dairy novelties, according to Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health .

    Look at the effect taxes have had on alcohol and tobacco use. Five studies published between 1981 and 1998 found that drinking declined as the price of alcohol increased.

    Same for tobacco. In California in 1988, Proposition 99 was enacted. It increased the state tax by 25 cents per cigarette pack and allocated a minimum of 20% of revenue to fund anti-tobacco education. From 1988 to 1993, the state saw tobacco use decline by 27%, three times better than the U.S. average.

    The food industry has skewered Twinkie tax proponents. A recent print ad by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a non-profit coalition of restaurants, food companies and consumers, featured the headline, "You are too stupid to make your own food choices," and it made a scathing reference to the "food police" proposing fat taxes on foods "they don't want you to eat."

    The food industry, it seems, is starting to get a bit nervous. Maybe that bodes well for our waistlines.
     
  2. Merlin1047
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    Merlin1047 Senior Member

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    Ah yes, by all means, let's get the government involved in our daily diets. Perhaps we can even have a new cabinet post - Secretary of Waist Management - or otherwise known as the Calorie Czar. How about a new bureaurocracy - The Department of Diets - otherwise known as the Burger Nazis. You bet - more government is the cure and more taxes are what we need.

    :puke:

    And as far as the airlines - fine, charge by weight. But if you're going to charge me more than some 120 pound petite woman, then you'd better have a wider seat for me. Because if I'm going to pay by the pound, then you damn well better have something that fits my fat ass better than the child sized seats you bastards shoehorn me into these days!

    Thanks. I feel much better now.
    :cool:
     
  3. 5stringJeff
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    5stringJeff Senior Member

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    I agree, Merlin. America may be getting fatter, but the government shouldn't be meddling in people's diets.
     
  4. dmp
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    dmp Senior Member

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    The government can't manage Social Security - the last thing we need is to give them ANOTHER billion or two a year to blow.
     

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