The Problem with the Solution: Junk Food Tax

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Updated: Oct 22, 2022
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The CDC discovered that more than one-third of Americans are considered obese. Compare this to 1995, where only 14 percent of Americans were considered obese (“”Soda Taxes””…). The United States is home of the Statue of Liberty, baseball, and the constitution. Today, the United States is known for unhealthy foods, obesity, and heart disease. Americans have become less healthy every day. One significant factor to the unhealthy wave affecting the United States is cheap junk food. In a 2012 study, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine discovered that the United States will spend about $550 billion in increased health care costs that are related to obesity through the year 2030 (“”Diet and Obesity””…).

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With these alarming numbers, health activists and some lawmakers believe a junk food tax could be the solution. Although obesity rates in America are the highest they have ever been, implementing a nationwide junk food tax would negatively affect businesses, consumers, and the government.

The consumption of unhealthy foods in America has reached an all-time high; however, by implementing a junk food tax, Americans may be less likely to have weight-related issues in the future. Advertisement is used to sell products, especially junk food. Margo Wootan is the Nutrition Director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Wootan states, “”Because of all this marketing, kid food has become synonymous with hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese with a side of fries and a soft drink”” (qtd. In “”Diet and Obesity…””). The food industry loves to prey on children because since they are an easy targetable audience. As well as the strong advertisement campaign geared towards children, the healthcare system in America has been deeply affected by the number of obesity-related health issues. Seventeen percent of children are currently obese in the United States, which equates to be about twelve million children ( “”Diet and Obesity…””). The United States has hit an “”obesity epidemic”” facts and statistics have become alarming over the years on how much weight-related health issues have taken over this country. “”For the first time in our nation’s history, our children and grandchildren are on track to live shorter lives than their parents. They will be sicker and less healthy than the generation that preceded them”” (qtd. In “”Diet and Obesity…””). Overall, by implementing a junk food tax, Americans would be likely to become healthy.

Despite the fact that obesity is a problem caused by junk food, food companies are selling unhealthy products at low prices; but, placing a tax on junk food will not prevent consumers from purchasing unhealthy products. Recent proposals for creating legislation for a junk food tax blames the food industry, but, the consumer is the one to blame (“”Diet and Obesity…””). Junk food being constantly consumed in America is inevitable; it has existed so long that it has become intertwined with a majority of Americans. Today’s consumers will continue to purchase unhealthy foods, even if a tax would be put into place. The phrase “”old habits die hard”” is a prime example of Americans eating junk food. Consuming junk food is like an addiction; once one starts, one cannot stop. Americans will end up paying more to purchase junk food with or without an added tax (“”A Tax on High Fat Foods…””). Ultimately, the food industry has been affected by different taxes that have not affected the decisions of consumers, neither would implementing a junk food tax would change consumer habits. Some individuals in the food industry would consider that no matter how much intervention is put into Americans weight, it is truly American citizens’ own decisions on what they consume. The government should just let people take their own obesity as a personal problem, not a government one (“”Diet and Obesity…””). The argument supporting this case displays that the government has more important and pressing matters to deal with than what Americans should eat. In summary, consumers will keep buying junk food because that is what they have always been doing and will continue to do.

Even though consumers are purchasing unhealthy products, the consumers are not to blame because healthy products are more costly. Over the past few decades, low-income Americans have argued that junk food is cheaper to buy and is more accessible compared to healthy foods. Companies that sell healthy foods have high prices due to the price factoring. Unhealthy foods compared to fresh foods are inexpensive. Increasing the price of food that is found to be cheap and energy dense, means it is more likely for consumers to purchase fresh foods (Franck et al.). If a junk food tax were to happen, those healthy food prices would remain the same. If the consumer were to compare the price of the new junk food tax to healthy foods, the junk food would still be less expensive. However, there could be a way to make healthy foods cheaper without a junk food tax. Another option besides a junk food tax would be to offer subsidies for healthy foods (Targeted News Service). Furthermore, placing a junk food tax on products that have low nutritional value would end up raising the price. Current prices of healthy products would be equal to or remain expensive compared to junk food. The pricing of junk food is based upon a few factors; but, demand is a significant factor in deciding the price of junk food. For example, if a junk food product sold well, the company would increase the price for more revenue. But, if that junk food product was selling well and demand would be high, the price would be lower because they would sell more of that product and make more money. Income and other influences such as advertising are all put into effect when calculating price (Franck et al.). Not everything can be blamed on the price of junk food, people’s own decisions come into effect as well. In today’s workforce, there are few labor-intensive jobs compared to years past. Less physical activity means it is more likely to become obese (“”Diet and Obesity…””). The way Americans live their lives has developed this new era within the food industry in America. Junk food has been selling so well that is has become apart of what America is known for. In short, the way Americans live is forming into a popular notion of consumers purchasing junk food.

If a junk food tax would be implemented, that money could be used to support subsidies for healthy foods, it could also improve healthcare systems, and local initiatives to improve health (“”A Tax on High Fat Foods…””). When Americans take into effect how challenging it is to create a healthier America without being fair to everyone involved is near to impossible. In addition to a junk food tax affecting consumers wallet more than their weight, side effects of implementing a junk food tax would affect the government influence of the food industry. By implementing a junk food tax, the food industry as a whole will be affected negatively. The food industry is an important industry that supplies and sell different food products by different food corporations. By using a market-based solution, a junk food tax can be implemented, but food industries should still have a free setting of the price of their product (“”A Tax on High Fat Foods…””). If this were to happen, it would be cheating the system. Food corporations would slightly lower the price of that product, and once that tax is added, it would be like the price never changed. Certain states have decided to create legislation of their own. In 2007, California passed a law that reduced the amount of junk food from vending machines in high schools (“”Diet and Obesity…””). While it may be true this reduces the amount of junk food at high schools, teenagers have other ways to find junk food. Besides affecting the food industry, a junk food tax would create many different changes within the government. One reason the government has not implemented a junk food tax is because legislation that has been created always seems to fail. A one-cent-per-ounce act would reduce the consumption of soda and would end up raising 15 billion dollars in revenue just in one year (“”Soda Taxes…””). Another reason the government does not have a junk food tax is because some states have their own policies. Thirty-nine states have already implemented a tax on soda and/or sugary drinks. But, food policy experts believe that those taxes were not made to reduce soda consumption (“”Soda Taxes…””). In summary, a nationwide junk food tax would not work due to the failure and misleading messages of some of the policies that have been put into effect.

On the whole, a nationwide junk food tax would negatively change the way of businesses, consumers, and the government, and it will not reduce the skyrocketing obesity rates in the United States. After exploring possible effects a junk food tax would have on the United States, the United States still faces increased rates for obesity and heart disease. Instead of a junk food tax, the United States should explore the possibility of expanding health agencies and everyone working together to make legislation that is effective and fair to everyone involved in the process. But, consumers need to have the overall choice. They need to decide whether they need junk food. Or will they look at the research on the health of this country and realize the change depends on them. They need to decide if they will be the change.

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The Problem With The Solution: Junk Food Tax. (2020, Mar 07). Retrieved from