Fat tax?

Readers' Views No 240/241, December 2003
OECD Observer

Your account of obesity in OECD countries makes good sense and excessive calorie consumption is no doubt one of the main causes (“Weighty problem”, OECD Observer No 238, July 2003).

I am delighted the OECD focuses on health challenges, as these have a strong economic dimension, both in root causes of some obesity-related illnesses and in managing the consequences in terms of health care. So, apart from sport, exercise and dieting, as well as some tough company crackdowns on employee lifestyles, surely market-based policy solutions to deal with the problem would be valuable too.

I was surprised you did not mention this approach, as excessive consumption is a simple problem for economists to analyse. To tackle excessive consumption of tobacco or petroleum products, economists usually recommend increased taxes to reduce consumption.

Is it time for a food tax? Such a levy on high-calorie products, like sweet drinks, fast food and cakes, could be part of a solution to the obesity problem. Some might argue that such a tax would be regressive as it would affect the income of the poor relatively more than the rich. But since lower income social groups appear to suffer more from obesity than the rich, by eating more fast food for instance, it could be a well targeted tax.

The revenue from the tax, which could be targeted on particular types of food – by fat content for instance – could be earmarked to fund health care costs, and so lower income groups would benefit from it. Further, since a food tax could be just the right answer for slimming down the US public deficit, as well as some of its more weight-challenged citizens, a fat food tax could also improve the health of the global economy.

—Ben Mahilum, Hawaii, USA


©OECD Observer No 240/241, December 2003




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017