Food / Opinion

Taxing junk.

The increasing girth of the human population has caused a sharp increase in the number of obesity cases worldwide. It has also feulled the cases of Type 2 diabetes worldwide. The question is should governments  intervene to curb this disturbing trend?

According to WHO, the global obesity rates have more than doubled since 1980. In 2014 alone there were more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 600 million were obese. Although not a completely reliable scale,  a person is classified as obese if their Body mass index (BMI)is greater than 25. This index uses a weight for scale scale and can be calculated using a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).

  • a BMI greater than or equal to 25 is overweight
  • a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is obesity.

South Africa is not immune to this global phenomenon. As of 2014, South Africa is the fattest country in Sub-Saharan Africa. This has been caused by  sedentary lifestyles, increased consumption of fast food and urbanisation of the  population. So what can be done done to help people live healthier lives?

One suggestion has been to impose higher taxes on junk food. This proposed fat tax, hopes to discourage people from buying unhealthy food. This method of taxation seems to have worked in parts of the world where it has been implemented. The consumption of sugary cool-drinks had decreased since Mexico  added the “soda tax” in 2013. New York followed suit and passed the soda tax in 2014. They were the first state in the US to do this. The idea behind this tax is similar to the “sin tax” that is added to tobacco and alcohol products in South Africa. But as we have seen, this has not curbed the consumption of such.

Opposition to such measures come in the form of  arguments about autonomy. People have free will and should be able to exercise it. This kind of action also reeks of a nanny state and them trying to pad the state coffers.

Those in favour of the tax point out that obesity costs everyone.Obesity is a greater burden on the UK’s economy than armed violence, war and terrorism, costing the country nearly £47bn a year as of 2014. This is equivalent to 3% of  their GDP. Therefore supporters feel that the state should take a preventative approach to health by making unhealthy food and drinks more costly.

While it is clear that there is no simple solution to this problem, but what is obvious is that this is  a crisis governments can longer ignore.





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