About this sample
About this sample
Words: 2018 |
11 min read
Published: Aug 4, 2023
Words: 2018|Pages: 4|11 min read
Over the last decade, the number of people with obesity has risen significantly. In 2016, 1.9 billion adults were overweight whereas 650 million were diagnosed obese. Moreover, 350 million children and adolescents at age 5 till 19 were obese. In the countries New Zealand, Mexico, the United States, and Hungary the obesity rates are the highest in contrast to countries such as Japan and Korea where the obesity rates are the lowest. The number of people struggling with obesity will not change as studies show that it will only increase until at least 2030. One of the potential solutions to address this global health issue is the implementation of a tax on junk food, which aims to discourage the consumption of unhealthy foods and reduce obesity rates.
Obesity is mainly caused by an imbalance between calories expended and calories consumed. This disease does not only have an effect on the body shape but it is also likely to cause diseases such as cancer, diabetes type 2, osteoarthritis but also cardiovascular diseases. These diseases can be life-threatening and lead to death. In the United States, 1 in 3 people die from a heart attack or a stroke and 1 in 12 people die of cancer due to obesity. Furthermore, the life expectancy reduces by about 3 years. Nevertheless, obesity causes direct and indirect costs. The direct costs include medicines, surgeries and laboratory tests. The indirect costs are the value of lost work, insurance, and wages. In 2005 in the United States, obesity was responsible for 21% of the medical costs, which counters $190 billion dollars a year. This is money that could most certainly be used for other medical services. Obesity is a disease that corresponds with prevention whereas illnesses such as cancer do not. Therefore drastic changes have to be made so that there will be a decrease in the money spent on medical care for obesity.
One of the solutions that has been taken into consideration is the introduction of a fat tax. This is a tax placed on fattening foods. It aims to discourage people to eat unhealthy foods to prevent an unhealthy diet from leading to obesity. It also aims to offset the economic costs of obesity. Research has shown that when you raise the price of foods, unhealthy or healthy, people will be less interested in buying these foods. Even though raising the prices of fattening foods seems like the perfect solution to this issue, the theory is being questioned. For this reason, there has been much debate on whether or not a fat tax is the primary solution to the reduction and prevention of obesity. Through the course of this essay, I will analyze these two distinct perspectives on this issue, to conclude whether fat tax should or should not be used as a primary solution to the reduction and prevention of obesity.
Firstly, let us consider the perspective, “Fat Tax should not be the primary solution to the prevention and reduction of obesity.” A source that identifies with this perspective is the article, “Why Fat Taxes Won’t Make Us Thin” by Laura Cornelsen, research fellow in Agri-health Economics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine together with Rosemary Green, Lecturer in Nutrition and Sustainability, Alan Dangour, Reader in Food and Nutrition for Global Health and Richard Smith, Professor in Health System Economics.
Cornelsen’s main arguments are that there has been a lack of research in what the long-term effects are of introducing a fat tax. She states that there are different factors that have to be taken into consideration when evaluating the effect of fat tax on health outcomes. Factors that play a role are the availability of substitute products, the preferences and habits of the people and the response of the supply side. Furthermore, they state that because we do not know the impact, further research on the effects of fat tax is needed.
In my belief, this source is worthy of evaluation because it is neutral in its roots but argues the relevance of fat tax and clearly states arguments against fat tax. The neutrality of its roots is a strength in this article. This is because it has taken the positive effects into consideration and therefore makes the opposite argumentation stronger. Cornelsen’s article has both strengths and weaknesses. A weakness in this article is the speculation on the impacts of fat tax instead of giving evidence and scientific data showing what the direct and indirect impacts are. Nevertheless, a strength in this article is that they acknowledge their weakness and that they explain their reasons for not giving the scientific data.
Research on the effect of fiscal policy on diet, obesity, and chronic disease has made a systematic review of 24 studies that have been done on the effect of food taxes. The research is done and written by Anne Marie Thow, University of Sydney, accompanied by Stephan Jan, The George Institute for International Health, Stephan Leeder, University of Sydney, and Boyd Swinburn, Deakin University.
This research states that researchers overestimate the effect of fat taxes and that the reality could be disappointing. It supports the article, “Why Fat taxes won’t make us thin” Therefore, the article is a reliable source. Additionally, an article which is used to examine the perspective “Fat Tax should not be the primary solution to the prevention and reduction of obesity” is, “What the world can learn from Denmark’s failed fat tax” written by Olga Khazan in The Washington Post.
This article mentions the abolishment of the fat tax in Denmark, a year after its introduction. She states that the abolishment is due to the companies’ increasing administrative costs, the purchasing of unhealthy products across the boarders and the risk of losing jobs. Olga Khazan describes Denmark’s fat tax introduction as a ‘failed policy’. The perspective in this article is clearly stated. The source from which they have gotten their information is reliable as it is the Danish tax ministry. Even so, there has been no scientific data used in this article to support the statement made. This weakens the source. Secondly, let us consider the perspective, “Fat tax should be the primary solution to the prevention and reduction of obesity.” A source which advocates this perspective is the article, “Taxing unhealthy fats can lead to healthier diets, new analysis shows”, by S Smed, J D Jensen, University of Copenhagen, together with P Scarborough, M Rayner, University of Oxford.
The main arguments are that the taxing of saturated fats in Denmark led to a modest but positive effect. There has been a 4% reduction in the consumption of fat and an increase in the consumption of vegetables by 7.9%. The article quotes another study which provides evidence of the effectiveness of the taxing of unhealthy foods for the benefits of our health.
This is a valid source because of its scientific background, thus making it reliable. It not only shows the effect fat tax has on the consumption of foods but also the effect it has on cardiovascular diseases, which shows that the researchers have looked at the wider over-all impact. Furthermore, the source used a counter argument and responded to this with an argument in favour. This definitely strengthens the source. It is an interesting source to look at as it gives insight into how the fat tax has effected a country that has introduced the fat tax. Nevertheless, this could be used as a weaknesses. It only uses evidence based on one country. This means that the article is not very diverse and does not necessarily represent the situation in other countries. This makes the scientific data used weaker.
Another article used to consider the perspective, “Fat tax should be the primary solution to the prevention and reduction of obesity”, is “'Fat tax' on unhealthy food must raise prices by 20% to have effect, says study” written by Dennis Campbell, health correspondent for the Guardian. This source states that the introducing of food taxes will help decrease diet-related diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
This source does not only look at the impact the fat tax will have on consumption but claims that a 20% levy on such drinks in the US would cut obesity by 3.5% and that adding 17.5% to the cost of unhealthy food products in the UK could lead to 2,700 fewer deaths from heart disease. While this seems very reliable, there are flaws. There has been no evidence found that the 2,700 fewer deaths from heart diseases are deaths that are related to obesity and therefore related to the introduction of fat tax. Regardless of this flaw, the article has used it has used study examined by professors of the Department of Public Health at Oxford University which shows that the research that has been done is relevant and reliable.
After evaluating the arguments put forward by either side, I believe that the perspective “Fat Tax should not be the primary solution to the prevention and reduction of obesity” is the most convincing for multiple reasons. The first being that the sources which support the perspective have clearly taken the opposite side into consideration. Furthermore, it provides relevant and valuable argumentation and has used a lot of sources and research to be able to support their statement.
After reflecting on the proposed question, the logical motive behind the two perspectives addressed can be understood. Initially, my view on this issue was neutral because of its counterbalance of advantages and disadvantages. Yet, after the completion of this essay based on a thorough analysis of a wide range of sources on the two opposite perspectives and their conclusions, I have drawn my conclusion. The research that I have done has definitely changed my personal stance on the question whether fat tax should be the primary solution to the reduction and prevention of obesity. However, it must be clarified that the research made for this essay is limited. Therefore, I cannot fully confirm whether I support or oppose this solution to the reduction and prevention of obesity. There would need be carried out further research on the overall-impact of fat tax to be fully aware of the consequences and to be able to strengthen my stance on this issue.
For this solution to be fully taken into consideration, scientist have to look at the different aspects which develop when introducing such taxes such as the availability of substitute products, the response of the supply side, the purchasing of unhealthy products across the borders, the risk of losing jobs due to the administrative costs and the impact on the health costs related to obesity. On that note, due to the lack of knowledge I believe that fat tax is not the primary solution to the reduction and prevention of obesity.
World Health Organization. (2018). Obesity and Overweight. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2017). Obesity Update. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/Obesity-Update-2017.pdf
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). (2009). Health Risks of Overweight and Obesity. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/health-risks-overweight
University of Oxford. (2009). Moderate obesity takes years off life expectancy. Retrieved from http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2009-03-18-moderate-obesity-takes-years-life-expectancy
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Paying the Price for Those Extra Pounds. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-consequences/economic/
Leonard, H., Harnack, L., French, S.A., et al. (2006). Purchases of Food in Youth: Influence of Price and Income. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01668.x
Cornelsen, L., Green, R., Dangour, A., & Smith, R. (2014). Why Fat Taxes Won't Make Us Thin. Journal of Public Health, 37(1), 18-23.
Thow, A.M., Jan, S., Leeder, S., & Swinburn, B. (2010). The Effect of Fiscal Policy on Diet, Obesity, and Chronic Disease: A Systematic Review. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 88(8), 609-614.
Khazan, O. (2012, November 11). What the World Can Learn from Denmark's Failed Fat Tax. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2012/11/11/what-the-world-can-learn-from-denmarks-failed-fat-tax/
Smed, S., Scarborough, P., Rayner, M., & Jensen, J.D. (2016). Taxing Unhealthy Fats Can Lead to Healthier Diets, New Analysis Shows. The University of Oxford. Retrieved from https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/news/201604_saturated_fat_tax
Campbell, D. (2012, May 16). 'Fat Tax' on Unhealthy Food Must Raise Prices by 20% to Have Effect, Says Study. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/may/16/fat-tax-unhealthy-food-effect
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