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Government has no right to tax or ban junk food
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Author:  jensonj [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 1:40 pm ]
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<strong>Written By:</strong> jensonj
<strong>Date:</strong> 2005-09-29 13:40:09
<a href="/article/174009211-government-has-no-right-to-tax-or-ban-junk-food">Article Link</a>

The same rationale that informed public health policy against smoking - leading to higher tobacco taxes - has set its sights on junk food, Sullum argued during a luncheon sponsored the Montreal Economic Institute.

"You're talking about protecting people from their own decisions," Sullum said in an interview before the speech.

"What you put in your mouth and how much exercise you get, that's pretty personal. It doesn't get much more personal than that."

Faced with a so-called obesity epidemic - eight per cent of children and 23 per cent of adults were obese in 2004, according to Statistics Canada - provincial governments are pursuing policies to separate people from their junk food.

Ontario toyed with, but ultimately rejected, the idea of a fat tax but has banned junk food vending machines from elementary schools.

In July, the province's health promotion minister vowed to target obesity as aggressively as tobacco through a number of yet-to-be revealed initiatives.

"Fat is the new tobacco," Jim Watson said in making the announcement.

In Quebec, politicians are considering a junk food tax that would send a "healthy message" to citizens while helping fund athletic programs. British Columbia has shown interest in banning junk food vending machines from schools.

In Britain, a sweeping ban on junk food in the nation's schools-including chocolate bars - was announced Wednesday.

Sullum believes that while governments have every right to protect the public against health risks posed communicable diseases and pollution, they have no authority to tell people what to eat.

"It's a question of what people want," Sullum said.

"What the anti-fat activists are saying is, people don't want what they ought to want, and therefore the government has to coercively change what they want."

But for Toronto-area dietitian Lynn Roblin, government-directed eating guidelines are key to a healthy society.

"Whatever government you're talking about, whether it's provincial or federal, they do have a role in promoting healthy lifestyles, definitely," Roblin said.

Skyrocketing health-care costs are among the possible repercussions of government inaction on healthy eating, she added.

"It would not be a responsible action for them to ignore this."

While Sullum doesn't deny that North Americans are fatter now then they were 20 years ago, he maintains government policy aimed at restricting eating habits is not the answer.

"For some people the solution is, they prefer to be fat," he said. "That's their choice and they should be permitted to make it."

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[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on September 29, 2005]

Author:  Guest [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 2:07 pm ]
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However the government does pay the bills for health care costs. It is therefore in the government's interest to reduce health care costs by promoting better diets. A tax on junk food is similar to a sin-tax on alcohol or tobacco and might not be a bad idea.

Author:  Guest [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 2:07 pm ]
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The Economic club is full of shit.Tax it,hell get rid of that junk.Nobody needs it.

Author:  mk [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 2:31 pm ]
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It likely does have the right (really a responsibility), to intervene in many, many instances:

- in schools
- in hospitals
- in cafeterias in government buildings
- in military procurement
- in any commerical activity which receives subsidy
- in situations where parents are prevented from exercising informed consent on behalf of their children
- in public policy statements and nutritional guidelines
- when the public is being actively prohibited from making informed consent (which may--slippery slope--include being tricked like when you think that double-chicken-ranch-taco-salad-supreme is better for you than the cheeseburger because it's "salad")
- *if* an ingredient used purely for industrial convenience is discovered to be harmful (e.g. hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup - that ain't how granny taught me to make biscuits)

Otherwise, I for one have to side with the libertarian viewpoint here. North America is getting fat on excuses, not sugar.

Author:  lis2005 [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 3:14 pm ]
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Sorry - but I've seen the documentary "Big Sugar" all this week on the CBC. We have a lot more to worry about than getting fat. Diabetes, behavior problems, and of course - the sugar industry promotes slavery in places like Dominican Republic, and other places.

I watched "Supersize Me" - and we have not given one red cent to the McDonalds ever since... or any fast food restaurant for that matter. I would absolutely LOVE to never see another "I'm lovin' it" commercial - because my son longs for chicken McNuggets everytime it's on. By not buying that crap was like being in detox. But we are better for it.

However - it doesn't stop my son's school from having the "hot lunch" program which includes things like A&W, McDonalds, sugar, sugar and more sugar. My complaint to the school about the menu has fallen on deaf ears. Fast food once a week (hot lunch is on Fridays) - is too much for a 7 year old as far as I am concerned.

Ban sugar (pop, fast food, and other junk) from schools - but unfortunately - what you feed your children is a matter of personal choice. Let's face it here folks - when the London bombings happened, people in Toronto were having issues with subway security doing random bag inspections - what makes you think those people are going to want to have the gov't tell them what to eat??

Personally - I wouldn't lose sleep if the government did ban junk food. We may all be better off for it!!

Author:  Guest [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 3:41 pm ]
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The government has every right to make laws to tax whatever they feel neccessary. That's how a democracy works. This hairbrain arguing otherwise is another of these "oh poor corporations" types.

Author:  Marcarc [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 4:01 pm ]
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Baloney, that's not how 'democracy' works. If democracy worked we'd VOTE on it. Is anybody even talking about this?? The government is so far up industry's ass they waited twenty years till industry learned how to replace trans fats in their products to 'ban' it and make it look like they are good guys. Industry DRIVES the government, go research what happened when european scientists discovered that acrylamide was formed during the rapid heating process of foods (which includes not only deep fried foods but cereals as well) and that acrylamide is a cancer causing agent. THe first thing they did was meet with all the industry representatives to figure out how to address this from a marketing point of view. Even though the most aggregious products were deep fried, like chips and fries, Health Canada maintained that 'citizens' shouldn't alter their diet' because of this. Even though there is NO nutritional value to deep frying and there's absolutely no reason to eat ANY of it. They didn't use this as an opportunity to tell people to stop eating the crap, they acted as a marketer for industry.

Author:  Darna [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 4:17 pm ]
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I agree. And why should everyone have to pay taxes for the medical bills on people who get cancer from smoking, or who get diabetes and obesity problems from overeating or from high sugar intake? Having a choice is great - having the government monitor every second of your day may not be so great.

"I think we agree, the past is over." Appointed POTUS, George W. Bush

Author:  Guest [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 4:32 pm ]
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Where does the word "duty" come in, compared to "right"? I think a(ny) government has the duty to ensure the best lives for its citizens. That has far reaching consequences, e.g. I pay taxes to pay the salary of the civil servant in the Health Department, and he/she should ensure that "bad things" are "banned", like coal and asbestos and arsenic, and that is why these are not for sale in normal outlets.

How far does that argument apply to (proven) junk foods? By things like disincentives and taxes, and by advisories on "good lifestyles". That is why there are taxes on tobacco and liquor, and none on organic hazelnuts and pure fruit juices.

Author:  Perturbed [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:02 pm ]
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Stevia is a safe, 10X sweeter than sugar substitute which is banned in large quantities in pop, etc. to protect indsutry which grows as a bush in Brazil, but it is sold in small amounts and diabetics use it as a substitue for sugar....however, sugar is still necessary for baking as it helps get the correct consistency for baking.

The midget, Bush, and that Rumsfield deserve only to be beaten with shoes by freedom loving people everywhere.

- Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, The Iraqi Informat

Author:  Guest [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:07 pm ]
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We're not talking about banning the food outright, except in certain controlled situations like elementary schools. The government has the duty to balance the interests of all citizens. It's definitely in the interest of most citizens to save money on healthcare. What's a way of doing that? By preventing illness in the first place. Well how do you do that? One way is by encouraging healthy eating. You can encourage healthy eating through incentive or disincentive. In this case, we're talking about a disincentive: taxing unhealthy foods, be they sugared or junk food (they would likely be one and the same in most cases). By making it more painful for people to eat crappy food -- but not taking away that right -- you will have fewer people eating that crap and therefore fewer related ailments and less strain on the healthcare system.

I for one will defend government's right to take action to save money for the healthcare system. If they don't, well then it's time to send the bill to those who haven't taken responsible action to be healthy and end up costing the system.

Author:  Perturbed [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:20 pm ]
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Jacob Sullum wrote an interesting book called "For your own good: the anti-smoking crusade and the tyranny of public health".

Personally, I don't share his libertarian views on smoking, though I do agree it is hypocritical to try to defame people who use a product that the government allows to be produced on such a large scale.

With respect to junk food--I agree with Jacob Sullum. Make it safer, get RID of transfats, hydrogenated oils (are they the same thing?) and then leave it up to people to choose. Junk food in moderation can be safe fun.

The midget, Bush, and that Rumsfield deserve only to be beaten with shoes by freedom loving people everywhere.

- Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, The Iraqi Informat

Author:  Brother Jonathan [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:56 pm ]
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<p>In particular, sugar caramelises, which gives sweet baked goods their particular flavour/scent/browning. Unfortunately, stevia doesn’t caramelise. I also find that it has a bit of a licorice-ish taste, and I never developed a taste for licorice.</p><p>---<br>Shatter your ideals upon the rock of Truth.<br />
<br />
— The Divine Symphony, by Inayat Khan<br />

Author:  no1important [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:58 pm ]
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I think eventually the government will start to go after fast food places and makers of so called junk food, just like they are starting to with big tobacco.

Obesity is the next epidemic and once all the smokers are gone, dead or have quit, this will be the next target. I would not be surprised within a year or two a "junk food tax" or "fat tax" is applied to junk food and fast food.

Author:  Patm [ Thu Sep 29, 2005 8:08 pm ]
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Banning junkfood from being sold in schools in no way affects freedom of choice. For one thing, children do not have the rights of an adult because they do not have the judgement of an adult. A 10 year old no more has the "right" to buy a twinkie in a school vending machine than he has the "right" to buy a package of cigarettes.

Parents DO have the right to pack junk food in a kid's lunchbox if they so choose. This move actually helps protect the rights of those parents who do not want their children eating junk food at school, where they are not able to keep an eye on them.

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