New York Times food writer Mark Bittman argues consumption taxes would reduce Americans' unhealthy fast food habits, and the resulting revenue could be used to subsidize healthy food and get it in the hands of our poorest citizens, who need it most.
A penny tax per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages in New York State would save $3 billion in health care costs over the course of a decade, prevent something like 37,000 cases of diabetes and bring in $1 billion annually. Another study shows that a two-cent tax per ounce in Illinois would reduce obesity in youth by 18 percent, save nearly $350 million and bring in over $800 million taxes annually.
But other experts say taxation won't change behavior, but rather place additional economic burden on Americans who can least afford it. Michael T. Thomas argues the most important change we could make "is to simply seek ways to include lower-income folks in the economy and raise their overall income, a much more complex, but ultimately more important issue."
Decreasing fast food consumption is a national issue. Many say we need to attack it the same way we addressed smoking.
"Right now it’s harder for many people to buy fruit than Froot Loops; chips and Coke are a common breakfast. And since the rate of diabetes continues to soar—one-third of all Americans either have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, most with Type 2 diabetes, the kind associated with bad eating habits—and because our health care bills are on the verge of becoming truly insurmountable, this is urgent for economic sanity as well as national health." —Mark Bittman
Let's face it: people just don't like taxes, and the government using taxation to influence behavior makes some citizens cry nanny state.