Raise Taxes? YES!!!!!


Soda Tax? Makes sense to me.

This is not a political blog, nor will it ever be but I say it is time to raise taxes.  Now before you go hog wild and begin scrolling right down to comment on why we should or should not raise taxes I am not talking about income tax.  The tax that I am talking about is a tax on unhealthy foods.  Do I know exactly what is healthy versus unhealthy?  No, but I do know that eating a Triple Cheeseburger from McDonald’s is not healthy even if you wash it down with a 64oz Diet Coke because you thought supersizing was the right idea.  I do know that getting a 12 pack of tacos from Taco Bell is not healthy.  I do know that consuming a dozen donuts in one sitting is not healthy.  This is not rocket science, and I’m sure that we have rocket scientists in the country who can determine at what level a food is considered unhealthy.

In the past few weeks I have had conversations with people who tell me how hard it is to eat healthy because of the cost.  I’m sorry but this is ludicrous to me.  If I have to tell one more person that a pepper costs next to nothing and can be added to a ton of dishes versus the cost of the Super Size meal at a fast food ‘restaurant’ plus the cost of gas to drive to the pharmacy to purchase the ridiculously priced heart management pills I am going to lose my mind.  Please do not tell me it is harder to eat healthy.  It was just as hard to quit smoking but now I don’t see nearly the number of smokers as I used to.  Oh by the way, did you notice the taxes on a pack of cigarettes went up?  Have you ever seen what a pack of cigarettes cost?  Last I checked it was in the vicinity of $15.00 per pack.  Think about that for a moment.  Almost $1/cigarette and is it any wonder that the number of those that have quit smoking has gone up?

Let me also state for the record that McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and all the other fast food places are NOT restaurants and should not be called that.  These places are fast food stores.  You are buying ‘food’ off the shelf.  It is not made by a chef who went to the farmers market that morning to purchase the ingredients.  It is delivered in a truck and stored for who knows how long and then created that day.  You cannot order a burger at these places medium, medium rare or medium well.  You get it one way despite what Burger King claims.

This is a topic that I am passionate about because in my everyday walks of life I see people who are just stuffing their faces without thinking about what they are eating.  I work out of my house and do a lot of my work in coffee shops.  I go in and order a decaf and a banana if I am hungry and have forgotten to pack my snacks.  While sitting there I see people drinking the largest of large coffees that are topped off with mounds of sugar and cream.  They then decide that it wasn’t enough sugar and order a donut or a muffin and shovel that down.  They don’t chew.  I’m not sure they even know what they are eating because it is gone so fast. What happens is that the body will tell the mind that it is satisfied, but then in a short time they are hungry again because what they consumed was nothing but simple sugars.  They are just creating a vicious cycle for themselves that has no ending unless they take responsibility for themselves.

I think that is the crux of the argument.  People just don’t want to take responsibility for what they eat, but are they fully to blame?  86% of commercials that are about food are about the high sugar foods that people consume on a daily basis.  Companies like Kraft, Campbell’s and ConAgra are just that….companies.  Companies are in the business of making money and what sells is the oh this tastes so good I can’t possibly give it up ‘food’ that people crave and spend more money on.  When was the last time you saw a commercial for a vegetable?  I can’t recall ever seeing somebody tout the benefits of brussell sprouts in a 15 second ad but Lay’s is running wild with the marketing of locally grown potatoes for their potato chips….are you kidding me?


160 calories per serving or 15 chips....same as 1 large sweet potato without the fat or sodium

By their own marketing campaign you can’t eat just one.  Look at the serving size and it says 15 chips is one serving size.  Stick you hand in the pack and come away with that salty goodness and try to limit yourself to 15 chips.  They even tell you it’s not possible.  By the way there are 160 calories in that one serving which would be close to approximately 10% of a typical diet of 2000 calories.  Is it any wonder that the average American consumed approximately 278 additional calories per day from 1977 to 2001?  Why are we turning away from this epidemic?

Epidemic too harsh a word for you?  I don’t think it says enough.  More and more people are turning to medications to take care of this problem instead of saying enough is enough and eating an apple.  Guess who pays for this?  We do through our taxes.  Our health care in this country is at the brink right now and yet nobody wants to talk about the elephant in the room.  Why are we ignoring this?  What will it take?  Seriously what will it take?  If you have ideas I would love to hear them.  Nothing is off the table.

I read an article by Mark Bitman in the New York Times Op-Ed Column titled Tax Soda, Subsidize Vegetables.  It was very well written and researched and it made me think that raising taxes was the right thing to do because our ‘education’ has not worked.  I see fast food stores being built all over Dallas so the message hasn’t been strong enough or reached enough people.  Maybe when people go to the grocery store and a 12 pack of soda costs $3 more than it used to there will be a change in attitude.  Maybe if the order of fries at Jack in the Box cost $1 more than they do now people will recognize that it is cheaper to eat healthier.

Here are two paragraphs from the article that stood out for me:

The average American consumes 44.7 gallons of soft drinks annually. (Although that includes diet sodas, it does not include noncarbonated sweetened beverages, which add up to at least 17 gallons a person per year.) Sweetened drinks could be taxed at 2 cents per ounce, so a six-pack of Pepsi would cost $1.44 more than it does now. An equivalent tax on fries might be 50 cents per serving; a quarter extra for a doughnut. (We have experts who can figure out how “bad” a food should be to qualify, and what the rate should be; right now they’re busy calculating ethanol subsidies. Diet sodas would not be taxed.)

Simply put: taxes would reduce consumption of unhealthful foods and generate billions of dollars annually. That money could be used to subsidize the purchase of staple foods like seasonal greens, vegetables, whole grains, dried legumes and fruit.

This makes so much sense to me that it is scary.  Yes, I understand that some people who eat and drink moderately when it comes to fast foods will be hit by this as well and they are saying but why do I have to pay more.  My simple answer is this:  Why not?  You will end up paying less if people got healthier in this country.  Your life insurance premiums go up as people die at an early age from obesity so would you rather pay $1.44 for a 6-pack of Coke that you buy once every three months or pay $5 extra each month because our country is unhealthy?  Simple math says charge me the $1.44 for the 6 pack that I will buy twice a year.


As the sizes grow so do we.....

Please do not misunderstand me and think that I am the all mighty and don’t have a Snickers bar every now and again.  I do, but I limit it and try to eat as healthy as possible but you will not catch me eating at a fast food store.  There is nothing good about them and the scary thing is that we know it and yet these companies are raking in millions and profiting on our inability to control ourselves.  Does this not seem insane to you?

Here is another segment of the article that struck me:

Other countries are considering or have already started programs to tax foods with negative effects on health. Denmark’s saturated-fat tax is going into effect Oct. 1, and Romania passed (and then un-passed) something similar; earlier this month, a French minister raised the idea of tripling the value added tax on soda. Meanwhile, Hungary is proposing a new tax on foods with “too much” sugar, salt or fat, while increasing taxes on liquor and soft drinks, all to pay for state-financed health care; and Brazil’s Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program features subsidized produce markets and state-sponsored low-cost restaurants.

We are supposed to be this world power yet we are always so late to the party.  How can that be?  How can other countries already be considering or have already moved forward with these types of taxes?  Are they clued into the obesity problem better than the United States?  Are there elected official frustrated with the influx of McDonald’s, Chipotle and Long John Silver’s that this was there only recourse?  I don’t know the answer but what I do know is that they deserve a round of applause for doing something that was probably not popular but did it to help salvage the lives of those in their country.

What do you think of taxing unhealthy foods?

What ideas do you have to fix the obesity problem in the United States?

** Here is another post that I found on Marcus Samuelsson’s website titled Taxing Unhealthy Foods by Matt Essert.

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  1. Matt Oravec says:

    Phew! I was not sure what to expect when you teased this article LOL!.

    Fully agree. BUT, in my own defense on my statement that our grocery bills are expensive because we eat healthy… here is why, we can’t use coupons anymore. We would save over $50-60 a shopping trip on coupons (I am pretty cheap on certain things). We can’t use coupons anymore on our foods and we try to buy the better options (which do not provide discounts because they have better ingrediants in them).

    That being said, I am all for taxing the “unhealthy” items. Just don’t tax my beer anymore than they already do. :)

    Great post, I can feel your passion and energy oozing through your words on this post haha. I think you did a great job writing it and grasping the key facts here. I know peppers are cheap, but I do like to eat more than a pepper for dinner ;)

    • Jason says:

      Yeah, I figured you would be nervous but do you remember that comment that really sparked this?

      I also understand the situation with coupons but they are available for healthier foods. Go right to those sites and download the coupons direct from the sites. As you are purchasing from the grocery store they will also print coupons for the items you use/buy often and they will come up. One site to use is Mambo Sprouts.com as they have coupons for quality healthy foods.

      As for the pepper….Yes I eat more than that as well….sometimes two peppers…..LOL!!!! But seriously buy a pepper and stuff it with quinoa and vegetables and bake with some low fat mozzarella cheese on top or go full fat cheese and enjoy. That alone is probably going to cost a total of $3.00 to purchase and you will know everything going into it. That’s it I’m having stuffed peppers for dinner now.

  2. Bob says:

    Why don’t you tell us what you really think?? :)

    You know, you are off on the cigarettes. In the middle of the bike at Ironman Texas I had a craving and pulled over to a convenience store at mile 90 and my pack of Marlboros was only 5 something…..
    Of course my ciggies always make me hungry so luckily there was a McDonalds at mile 105 so I could get something off the dollar menu…

    Glad I put a 10 dollar bill in the old Bento bag….

    • Jason says:

      Bob – Once again you bring levity to the situation and make me laugh out loud. So where exactly is that McD’s so I know how to plan my nutrition for next year at IMTX.

  3. Morgan says:

    This is a helluva post Jason and I can’t wait to come back later and read the rest of the comments you are sure to receive! I for one and totally for the tax on “bad” foods. It wouldn’t affect me in the slightest, I do not drink soda (or Pop here in Michigan), I rarely eat fast food (minus the occasional Taco Bell Friday with Spike, he on the other hand would be massively screwed), and I think it would positively help my sugar tooth because I would never pay more than like $.75 for a candy bar. :) Eating healthy can be expensive though, lord knows I blow through produce like it’s nothing because I juice but I’d rather spend the money and know I’m positively affecting my health by the food choices I make then pick up a pop for cheaper. No matter what, something needs to be done about the obesity rate here in the U.S., it’s out of control.

    • Jason says:

      It might be more expensive (although I don’t think so) but the money saved in the long run is tremendous. Imagine a healthier country but as it gets healthier it is generating revenue which can lead to improved food production and thus lower costs. I mean there is so much that we can do in this country but we seem to always wait until the breaking point to do something. I for one can’t take it anymore as I sit around watching people just shoveling it in. I don’t mean that they are eating unhealthy food, but on top of it being unhealthy there is a TON of it and it is gone in moments.

  4. I agree with the tax to a large extent, but I have to say that I also think eating healthy can be more expensive. I saw the price on a box of quinoa and almost passed out. You described a $3 stuffed pepper, but there are people that live on those 5 for $5 roast beef Arby sandwiches. Yes, gross, crappy food, possibly future thousands in medical expenses… But cheap, and for low income, that’s where they turn. I also think it will only be a small part of the problem, though… People will continue to flock to convenience foods. I love to cook, so do you, but I know many people who literally never cook… Ever. So healthier options need to be offered at these convenience places. Sure, nothing is healthier than fresh natural ingredients cooked at home, but I think that’s ignoring reality to think charging more will just make a revolution to eat healthy. I think for the most part, many people will just continue to pay for the foods. I guess in one way this works cause they are paying the taxes for their own lack of health, but it doesn’t necessarily get this country healthy. That’s part of why I love blogging… I believe this country will get healthy in a grassroots manner – one person at a time being influenced by others who have made the change. I could also get behind some classroom education. I bet my 3 year old is rare in her begging for zucchini on a daily basis. I bet there are high schoolers who don’t even know what zucchini looks like.

    • Jason says:

      Let me take care of this myth about it being expensive with this one link: http://kroger.elsstore.com/brandstores/282-quinoa/categories/1806-home-page-name/products/1170-quinoa-ancient-harvest-organic-grain-gourmet-box

      12 boxes of quinoa for $30 and do you know that each box has 7.5 servings? So for the cost of $30 you can get 90 servings of quinoa which makes each serving a total of $.33 so it crushes the 5 for $5 at Arby’s by a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG SHOT.

      So I’m sorry but I don’t buy that eating healthy is more expensive. I will also so as Aimee points out that you are ignoring the cost of the medication for diabetes, heart medicine, stress medicine, maybe a motorized wheel chair, depression medicine and all the other things that go into eating unhealthy and the expense to eating unhealthy foods is far more expensive than eating healthy.

      I just went to the grocery store and bought 6 lbs of bananas, 2 bags of spinach (buy 1 get 1 free), 2 peppers and 2 servings of brown rice and it cost me less than $12 and I will get more than one meal out of this.

      Again, I just don’t see how eating healthy is more expensive.

  5. Jeannie says:

    I’m really on the fence here. I do think there needs to be a difference between healthy, whole foods and unhealthy, processed, or junk foods. I don’t know if I believe that putting a tax on those foods is the right way. What I feel, is that many healthy foods such as organics and packaged foods made from whole food ingredients should cost less. Like the previous comments, I find eating healthy more expensive, especially with a family of 5. For on thing, we still have meat eaters in our house and organic or healthier cuts of meat is so much more expensive. Even though I stick to mostly whole foods, we do buy boxed or package stuff like pasta, canned items, bars for convenience made from whole food ingredients, etc… But these can be a lot more expensive than the name brand or store brand counterparts. I also feel there are less coupons for these things, I don’t have time to search for them, or the items are still more expensive even with the coupons. I just don’t think it’s fair that organic foods and packaged whole foods should cost so much more. This gives people the excuse to buy the cheap stuff which turns out to be unhealthy.

    • Jason says:

      Jeannie –

      Mambosprouts.com will get you coupons for the healthy foods and there are other such places that you can get the coupons without searching very hard for them.

      If you need others let me know.

  6. LOVED this post! I am so with you on this matter, it’s scary! It’s funny that you brought up the fact that people think that eating healthier is more expensive b/c I just had this conversation with one of my good friends. It is a huge myth that eating healthy is more expensive. I actually sat her down and calculated the exact cost of the meals that I made for all of us. Most of the meals cost less than $10 and served 6 people!!
    Here’s another thing though, even if people do think eating healthier is more expensive. My father-n-law has heart disease. His doctor wanted to put him on all of this medication along with other things that cost $$$. He decided to take it into his own hands and change his way of eating. He has pretty much reversed everything that was wrong with him, which has saved him tons of $$ on medication! So, what’s better…spending $$$ on medication b/c you’re body is sick or spending it on food that will let you live a healthy life??

    • Jason says:

      Aimee –

      You nailed it on the head. It is not the cost of a box of Einkorn pasta compared to a box of Barilla pasta but the cost of Einkorn pasta versus the cost of Barilla + medications + gas to get to doctor + gas to get to pharmacy.

      If people compare those two numbers there is no way they think eating healthy is more expensive.

  7. Bob says:

    OK, I’m back…
    Simple matter of supply and demand and the competitive edge. You are correct… if more of the public strayed away from crap food, demand would go down and it would become the specialty food and more expensive. Vice versa for the healthy food. More demand, more competition, less cost.

    that ends this session of Economics 101…

  8. Renee' says:

    I would be most curious to know what you would want to do with the extra tax dollars? If the money would indeed be funneled into creating commercials and banners about healthy eating, then I would say this is indeed a great idea. However, the fear that I have is that the tax dollars would somehow supplement the loss of dollars that Frito Lay would incur as a result.

    I also believe that this issue comes down to laziness. People do not want to have to think about putting together fresh ingredients and then, oh my gosh cooking them. They want to feel like they actually cooked because they pulled open a frozen bag and heated some stuff up in a skillet. After all there are video games to play AND PF Chang put it together (that makes for a home cooked family style meal).

    In my opinion if we remove the tv from our daily lives, take away a childs cell phone and video games we would see more interest in eating healthy. However, a bag of chips is much easier to eat while playing World of War Craft then a stuffed pepper.

    • Jason says:

      Renee – this goes to the heart of the matter of not taking responsibility for our actions. Parents today do not take responsibility for what they do in terms of raising their children. My step son actually begs for vegetables because I have spoken to him about how they make big muscles. Now he wants it in all his meals and yes there are times when he doesn’t like them and that is fine as he will determine his taste buds in due time.

      Also, instead of giving him cake I will cut up a carrot and celery and give it to him with some peanut butter. I am taking my responsibility to raise a healthy child into a responsible adult seriously but unfortunately I can’t say that for all.

      Now, as to what I would do with the money? Simple take the revenue and pour it into farming real foods (not you Monsanto) as well as education through grassroots projects on organic farming (animal and vegetables) and I would spend some marketing dollars to promote healthy eating (did you see the difference in spend in the NY Times article? Billions versus Millions.)

  9. I see your point on some levels, but on a personal level… Previously, as a coupon-aholic and whatever meat was on clearance, I could feed my family of 5 on $300 a month. Now I spend $300 a month just on my meat (organic, farm-raised, hormone free) and at least another $300 on produce and other items. Frankly, my medical bills haven’t changed. I wasn’t on medication before and never needed the doctor. My kids still get the occassional flu and strep throat, same as before. So yes, for those really unhealthy and medicated, it would be cheaper to get healthy. But from my highly processed food family to a mostly fresh food family (though we still occassionally do have fast food), our grocery bill has doubled.

    • Jason says:

      I could go into the vegetarian thing here but that is not the point……I would find out if what you are serving is a proper portion size. I’m not saying its not and your numbers are 100% accurate but I also find that people are not eating proper portions and mostly because when you eat out they bring you the Fred Flinstone brontosaurus burger and there is a belief that that is proper portion size.

      There are always going exceptions to the rule and I make that point in my post regarding it affecting those that eat healthy but in reality you get caught anyway. Your life/health insurance costs will go up because people are not healthy so that has to be taken into account as well.

      As they say you are not going to please all the people all of the time, but I cannot sit idly by while people are just not paying attention to what they put in their mouth and watch as our elected officials argue about the cost of health care. To me this is an easy fix.

  10. Jeff Irvin says:

    This is a touchy subject but am glad you addressed it.

    First, I am concerned for Bob b/c on the IMTX course there is a convenience store around mi 90 and a McD’s around mi 105 …hmmmm. And he still laid down that nice bike split with the stops …hehe!:

    Okay, to the subject at hand – I hate taxation. I hate the Gov’t making decisions for us b/c we are too dumb to make them ourselves. This is a prevailing thought process inside the DC Beltway and among the elite leftist media – I despise this idea and those that place themselves on a podium above the rest of America. Aside from our Military, the Fed Gov’t has royally screwed the pooch on everything it does to keep us from “harming ourselves” – Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, Freddie/Fannie, National Healthcare, Welfare ….etc. You can debate me all want on this but I will squarely point to the $14 Trillion in national debt as my trump card. But this is not for today’s debt but rather to shed light on my upcoming reasoning.

    To the reasoning …
    Who will be the “decider” of what gets taxed? Where will the money go and who makes that decision? Will the Gov’t offer waivers to companies that can eliminate certain ingredients? What will be the ingredients and who decides? We will probably need a sub-section of the Dept of Health to manage such a large undertaking – how will this get paid for? When this tax happens and Fast Food places shutdown due to decreased sales what will that do for unemployment rates? Who will pay for the unemployment of Fast Food workers? What about the fallout from the companies that supply Fast Food joints? They will have to layoff workers? What if they are traded publicly? What will it do to the to stock market? Will it send the economy into an even deeper recession?

    Now I still haven’t said I disagree with you but it isn’t as simple as “Tax Soda”, as my examples above show. The WSJ article makes a solid point but it is rather shortsighted by not seeing the forest through the trees. Every decision of this magnitude has a domino effect and the question is will we be better off as a country when the dominoes begin to fall? This I do not know? But from what I very lightly touched upon above, the tax soda bill would not be the silver bullet some think.

    You stated above “we are always so late to the party” when compared to the other countries you listed in the article. I think we are right where we should be because of the our Constitutional right of liberty and freedom?

    The United States has been the most successful Country in the history of the world in terms of individual wealth, human rights, technology, innovation, advancements in medicine, religious freedom and pretty much every other superlative in regards to human achievements you can think of. This has all happened because of our right to be free from tyranny, to be able to decide how we want to raise our families, to be able to decide who we want to represent us at local, state and federal levels.

    AND the Freedom to eat and drink whatever the hell we please falls squarely in the middle.

    Now after that little pro-America rant, I do not disagree with the majority of your post. In fact I can make an argument that the egregious state of obesity in this country is adversely interfering with our Constitutional right to Liberty. Liberty, in a nutshell, is basically my (and your) right to be free from each others poor decisions. The Obesity epidemic is causing an undo burden on our healthcare system which directly hurts our pocketbooks. With all the obesity statistics this point really is not even debatable. Fat people are a drain on our healthcare system, our economy, and society as a whole — there I said it! And more people need to as well …

    So if I agree with your premise does that mean I am going marching on DC with a group of skinny people demanding a soda tax? Nope, because I still think there is a better way than throwing money at the problem and it is something both you and the NYT discounted: EDUCATION. Specifically, for children.

    Hear me out …

    How can we say Education does not work when it is considered taboo to tell someone they are overweight? Political Correctness has made it impossible to address this issue as it stands today. We have no problem putting labels on Cigs and Booze that tell you this product will kill you but why do we not do this with a Big Mac? How come I can walk into Outback and order a 4000 calorie Onion Blossom as an appetizer and be told by the server what an excellent menu decision I have made?

    You can make an argument that once we began attacking Big Tobacco it really lost it’s “coolness” factor and the numbers show that smoking is declining in our country. When our society finally stepped back and realized that this stuff really is harmful change was enacted. It didn’t happen overnight and the statistics will show that is was generational change that started with education our children. We need to educate our children in schools about proper nutrition. Show them fat people dying. Show them what lard looks like being lypo-suctioned. Show them videos of an open-heart surgery and then explain why it happened and how they can prevent it. How do we teach kids to wear seat belts and not drive drunk? Show them the outcomes of those that do. Fear teaches. The education needs to be generational because it will filter upwards. How does a father respond when his innocent child asks him why he is eating fried chicken wings when he knows it is bad for him?

    Another example: How come a 300lb person would be applauded for chastising a smoker about the adherent risks of tobacco but you or me would be vilified for telling that same 300lb person that the Double Whopper with a 48oz Diet Coke they are getting ready to devour has the same amount of health risks as a cigarette? Because as a society we are afraid to have the conversation. We would be seen as insensitive health nuts who are talking down to the fatty. This needs to change.

    15 years ago we would have been considered rude to tell a smoker he was killing himself by smoking, today we would be surrounded by positive head nods as the smoker sheepishly distinguishes his cig. Maybe if we start now in 15 yrs when we see someone order an Onion Blossom we can yell across the table about how this person is killing themselves and driving up Healthcare costs.

    Education is power, taxation is lazy.

    My .02

    • Jason says:

      You are awesome and while you were typing War and Peace here I did type the following to an earlier comment:

      Now, as to what I would do with the money? Simple take the revenue and pour it into farming real foods (not you Monsanto) as well as education through grassroots projects on organic farming (animal and vegetables) and I would spend some marketing dollars to promote healthy eating (did you see the difference in spend in the NY Times article? Billions versus Millions.)

      It is all about education and I agree completely with you. Now in terms of the notion of what happens to unemployment etc I don’t have all those answers but this I do know….we have people in this country that can figure it out a lot better than I can. And you and I both know that a $1.44 increase on soda is not going to stop everybody from buying it so I’m not so sure those companies will become extinct like the dinosaur and I also believe that those companies are smart enough to be able to figure out a way to create more business for themselves with any change that occurs.

      And change has to occur at our level by telling people to THINK about this stuff and not just be sheep following the flock.

      • Steph says:

        Jeff hit the nail on the head here esp with the breakdown of the money trail in the world of real political agendas. Everyone has a notion of “what I would do with the money” and, not to discount Jason’s idea, but do you really think that would happen?

        Taxation is a band-aid over a hemorrhage that would forfeit the American right to live as you chose even if it isn’t the smartest path. Plenty of people will still use restricted resources on what they consider necessities. They will view the situation as another price increase because they lack the education to know better or the foresight to understand the long term benefits of investing in a proper diet. Sadly, some do understand the benefits but lack the resources to support their families with a proper diet.

        I agree with Jeff that education is key to break this cycle; and Jason, I know you agreed with this idea to some extent as well. Obesity should be treated as the disease that it is and our children educated about avoiding it as they are about avoiding a multitude of others. From there, only with TIME, can education be effective.

    • *Applauding loudly*
      Jeff, very well said. I really do believe that education is the way to get a handle on this problem. As a former fatty who ate Lay’s by the bagful I can say that I knew it was ‘Bad’ for me but I did not really understand WHY it was bad for me. Educating myself about nutrition is what caused the changes in my own behaviour and the choices I made about what I WOULD and WOULD NOT eat.

      Gov’t already has their hand in too many of these problems to be objective anyway-just look at the corn and soybean industries that are subsidized by Good Ole Uncle Sam. All this surplus corn the gov’t pays for and we have to find a way to use it. Sugar or HFCS? Yup-HFCS since it’s CHEAP. Food companies are a business and it’s all about the bottom line. MONEY MONEY MONEY

      I really could go on and on and on and branch off into 14,444 ways that this whole situation is a mess —

    • BDD says:

      Good to see Jeff has recovered from IMTX finally, I was missing his political rants, welcome back Jeffy

  11. Karen says:

    I think this is ridiculous. I want to know who the all powerful Oz will be that will make the call on what’s healthy and what’s not. Then I want to know why we don’t tax runners (I am one) for all the injuries they tend to incur because of their love of running. Next, let’s tax all skiers because skiing is dangerous and skiing injuries are a drain on our healthcare system.

    Also all pregnant women have to pay an extra tax because they are taking more than their share of health care resources during their pregnancies. Their incredible selfishness is driving up my health insurance premiums (which I buy myself by the way).

    I don’t think anyone has the right to pass judgement on others in such an intrusive way. I sincerely doubt that taxing “unhealthy” foods will really drive consumption down. People still seem to drink alcohol a lot despite taxes and drugs are illegal, but that doesn’t stop someone that really wants cocaine.

    Where do we draw the line on what we tax because it is “unhealthy” and what some all powerful commission somewhere deems is appropriate behavior for us all?

    I choose my personal freedom, including my right to eat myself into an early grave if I so desire.

    • Jason says:

      I thank you for your opinion and it is valued. The point is to get people talking about the epidemic and I believe it is an epidemic. People need to be educated on eating healthier so they live longer the same way people were educated on tobacco and how it kills you.

      Do you have a problem with New York City and a whole host of other municipalities banning smoking in restaurants? That would be intrusive wouldn’t it? That would interfere with a person’s right to choose to smoke themselves to death I would think.

      • Karen says:

        I’m fine with talking about the effects of unhealthy eating. Education is a good thing.

        I do think people should be allowed to smoke. I personally think smoking is a silly thing to do and I’m very grateful I never started. Banning smoking in restaurants, although I think it did cross the line at least with bars, I understand better. No matter where you sit in a restaurant the smoke will make its way over to you and you will breathe it in. Someone smoking in a restaurant does impact other people directly. What they eat in a restaurant does not.

        My major point is that I just don’t want someone else making the decision for me. I don’t want government to have that much say over my day to day life. I want to take personal responsibility for my choices and decisions. Some of my decisions are good and some are bad. We all have bad habits and I don’t want to legislate which bad habits are banned or taxed.

        Basically I think taxing something that someone somewhere deems is unhealthy is a very slippery slope. Where does it end?

        BTW- I think it took a lot of guts to write this post so I applaud you!

        • Jason says:

          If I got anything it is guts…..

          To your point I agree whole heartedly about being told what to do. I am one of those people that if you tell me I can’t there is a good chance I am going to just to prove to you that I can. Now when it comes to eating that wouldn’t be the case because I know that shoveling Jack in the Box down my gullet is not smart and I guess that is where I think we need somebody, some group to tell people that what they are eating is unhealthy so that they can make better decisions.

          Like tobacco maybe it went to far, maybe it didn’t I am not the one to make that decision but I do know it opened up people’s eyes to stop smoking or at least try to stop.

    • Jay Yew, MD says:

      I agree with you Karen on the personal responsibility. It is nobody’s right, especially the govt, to dictate one’s personal behavior. However, the govt can pretty much tax whatever the heck it wants to. It might as well tax those things that have a direct, KNOWN, cost to society.. like the added health care costs associated with lung cancer, caused by cigarettes, obesity and diabetes, associated with high-fat, high-sugar foods, and alcoholism, associated with alcohol. I’m in the health care field, and I’m not naive to think I’ll ever see a penny of those taxes, but I see no problem with punitively taxing these vices. I have no interest in changing your behavior, but I also have no problem with you paying more than the next guy to help society pick up the tab.

    • lindsay says:

      originally… i was more on the side of the tax, but now i think i agree with karen’s point of view best. i’m kinda tired of the government thinking they should have a say in such a huge portion of our lives… maybe the gov’t could require people on medicaid/-care to eat healthy since they’re leeching from the working class, just as they ought to drug test those on welfare…..

      educate people. then let them make their own decisions, dumb or not. natural selection?

  12. Bob says:

    Im back….
    And another point…
    Then I wouldn’t be able to watch Biggest Loser anymore while eating my bag of chips…..

    • Jason says:

      Bob – you kill me because I was thinking the same thing about how not only Biggest Loser would end but the other shows that have been popping up all over too. We can add them to the list of unemployed that Jeff pointed to in his comment.

      • yeah, but even BL is now compromised by all the product placements. Zip bags? how about how unhealthy those chemicals are in the plastic. Ahhh but Glad pays big bucks for the placement of their product
        Sugarfee Gum? Really??? Let’s address how artif. sugars effect the metabolism and the brain connections to eating and how they can trigger add’l sugar cravings. One a weight loss show?? Oh wait, they paid big bucks too!!

        See, the all might dollar once again tainting something. BL is now a giant 2 hour long commercial.

    • lindsay says:

      or my ice cream and m&m’s!

  13. Patrick says:

    Jason, great, thoughtful and well researched post. Personally I agree. But, I am a big believer in civil liberties and my personal life experiences have taught me you can’t help people who don’t want it. Plus there are so many questions – where would the extra tax revenue go, would it actually make it there? And so much more… In a country of 250 million + people with layers and layers of governmental lobbying and special interest groups this would be hard to pull off and the end result would probably be less than satisfactory.

    The solution (though admittedly idealistic) is that it is on the individual to take responsibility for themselves. People need to stop waiting to have things handed (or taken away) from them and step up and act. The supporting proof is both outside their front doors and available on the Internet. It really is simple as 2 + 2. And we as the health/exercise/endurance community need to support those who make the choice to do something about it. Though impossible to scale, this approach is ultimately the more effective way I think. It worked for you. It worked for me. It works for everyone who reads your blog. You are making more of a positive impact than some government initiative ever could. Just keep working on your reach – I honestly believe that in this age individuals or small groups with an organic approach and no agenda past what they believe in is a powerful force for change.

  14. Jen B. says:

    I’m loving this!

    My first reaction is that as sad is it is to see our society turn into a fast food nation of sedentary and obese people, it didn’t happen overnight. I don’t think that there is any one solution to this problem. I know that this very issue is why I’m so passionate about working for Weight Watchers. Although I’m not intending this to be a plug for the program, I believe in it’s approach to educate people on nutrition and then building a lifestyle based on activity and smarter healthier food choices. Every single day in the meeting room I hear of success stories of people who are having their medications reduced…not longer on insulin or blood pressure medications….and how inspired others are at achieving that same goal. I agree that the cost isn’t a fair comparison because science shows that diets high in fat/carbs are highly unsatisfying. It takes a lot less energy to break those nutrients down compared to ones higher in protein/fiber. If you’re unsatisfied then you’re constantly on the prowl for more food. Whether it’s sweets or junk food or fast food, the cycle in never ending. You’ve been talking about quinuoa….sure I balked at the price at first, but learned I can’t even eat more than a serving at a time because it’s so filling. In my mind I save myself money by eating healthy because I don’t constantly spend time feeling hungry and unsatisfied. Again, it goes back to building this healthier lifestyle one step at a time.

    Some other wonderful things that are happening in our area to combat this mindset of healthier equals more expensive includes…..

    * Some insurance companies in our area are requiring people with a higher bmi to either pay higher insurance premiums or join a program like ours, which the ins company pays for, to get down within a healthy range. I’m all about it, and if these folks come in frustrated because they “have” to lose weight, they eventually start seeing some progress and changing their tune.

    *EBT (food stamp) card holders can get double benefit, up to $20, if they spend their money at an approved farmers market. I’m not going to lie and say I’m a little jealous, but you can’t get in much trouble with convenience foods at a farmers market right?

    *Community education on growing your own fruits and vegetables. I live in a bit of a food “desert” where we are inundated with gas stations and fast food joints. We have some great resource programs aimed at educating community members and especially children where their fruits and veges actually come from and how easy it is to grow ourselves.

    If taxing unhealthy foods to help promote programs like this I would be tickled pink. I can’t think of a more deserving cause that can use every cent possible to make the hugest impact on our communities.

    • Jason says:

      Jen – do you mind telling me where you live and what insurance companies are doing this? That is a fabulous idea. I am going to tweet this post to the Gov of Texas and would love to have that ammo to start something like that here in Texas (specifically Dallas where they claim to have the most restaurants per capita but they count McD’s and the like as restaurants.)

      • Jen B. says:

        Blue Care Network is the biggest one in our area doing this. It so happens that I too have this insurance, and I had to take a Healthy Blue Health Assessment as well as get some blood work done after visit to my primary care doctor to determine my insurance premiums. Weight or BMI isn’t the only thing they tackle in these determinations…smoking and drinking are other ones that they will help provide assistance with. As far as weight loss, you can join a program like Weight Watchers or commit to a pedometer program to increase activity, and I think it’s for people with a BMI of over 30.

        • Jen B. says:

          Oh…and I live in Michigan :)

        • Jason says:

          This is awesome information. Thank you so very much. This removes the burden of taxing an entire population and places the responsibility right at the feet of those that are ignoring this issue. Thank you.

      • Jason-some ins. companies and employers are even offing discounted to free gym memberships to get their employees active and healthy! I know here in Maine several even offer deep discounts at the YMCA for memberships :D

        • lindsay says:

          i’ve heard of this – i wish more companies/employers offered this or some kind of incentive to being healthier! i tried asking my boss if i could leave an hour early each day since i don’t take smoke breaks but he said no.

  15. katie says:

    I agree so firmly and loudly! People always say “eating healthy is more expensive” and there are just so many reasons why that is not true. Thanks for posting this one!

  16. Hey Jason,

    I love your passion about this. It’s remarkably admirable and I like when someone takes a stand for what they believe in.

    That said, the last thing I want to do is let the government screw something else up. I’m not an anarchist. I know that organization prevents chaos, but undoubtedly any funds generated by a “junk food tax” would be improperly allocated or used to save social security when they pass the “Save our fat grandparents” act.

    I work with a lot of insurance programs and they’re beginning to reward healthy living with discounts as well as providing prevention programs as an added benefit to promote healthy living. It’s generally HMOs, but they provide gym memberships, advice from registered dietitians, and similar services to give people motivation to make healthy choices. Obviously those extra benefits have to be offset. They’re offset by overweight people, smokers, etc. who pay higher premiums for living unhealthy.

    I think this is a more natural solution and also more positive in nature than a tax.

    I’m all for finding answers to this problem, I just don’t know that a tax is it.

    Great post buddy!

    • Jason says:

      Ryan – Jen B (comment above yours) just brought this to my attention. I did not know that insurance companies were doing this and I think it is a great idea but how are they enforcing it? Are people responsible for sending in weight measurements? Are sign-ins at the gym required? Do they check foursquare check-ins (sarcasm!) but honestly how do they know these things are being done.

      Yes a tax could be allocated incorrectly and I don’t disagree with you on that since we have the history to prove it but how do we organize the masses to make a push for healthier lifestyles that will benefit all? How do we get ads on the air for farmers who grow product without GMOs? As a former TV exec I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can’t afford it because the Pharma companies are paying through the nose for their spots to air.

      As many people in the post have pointed to it is about education and I agree 100% but how do we educate people? I believe parents should be role models and examples but even that is proving to be too hard.

      • The programs that I’m familiar with require a yearly physical from a nurse or doctor who is employed by the insurance company to ensure they’re staying in good health. Since the insurance company doesn’t really want to provide the benefit, you can imagine the clinicians are pretty thorough.

  17. Nora says:

    Taking responsibility for how we eat.. AMEN! Seriously people. Stop blaming Mcds or what ever, no one makes you purchase this stuff. This obesity is so out of hand. I’m saddened by so many overweight children. Yet what I see in peoples grocery cart saddens me even more. I feed a family of 7 of way less than you would expect and we do not buy ONE once of junk. No exaggeration. If you want junk, make it yourself! We have one body, take care of it!

  18. lindsay says:

    i get soo irritated at that “eating healthy is more expensive” excuse as well. oh? so health care is cheap? heart surgery, diabetes medicine, etc etc. just as you said.

    yikes to jeff’s comment (long). i think it’s going to take me a week to thoroughly read this post and the novel comments ;)

  19. Michael says:

    Jim and I have this conversation all the time. He thinks unhealthy foods should just be illegal. That might be taking it a step to far, but I do think we need to do something. I find it so sad to see so many overweight children. It is going to be such much more difficult for them as they get older to lose that weight when they’ve had it their whole lives.

    Where I work we have an onsite cafeteria and they actually do subsidize our “healthy” foods. If you get a cheeseburger you pay full price, but a turkey burger is reduced. It kind of helps make eating healthy that much easier.

    • Jason says:

      I love Jim’s passion but his idea of illegal will cause a whole host of other problems. Our prisons are already overcrowded and if we add 75% of Americans to that number the inmates will truly be running the asylum.

      I love the idea of your onsite cafeteria. What a great way to ‘force’ people to make healthy choices so long as they are not choosing two of each serving b/c they are ‘saving’ money.

  20. Angela says:

    Jason, I think this has to be your best post ever. Really.

    I am 100% behind everything you have laid out here. I have similar conversations with people all the time – it is not cheaper to eat unhealthily! In fact, it is cheaper to eat healthily!!

    I did a project for six months where I kept to a budget of $75 per week for groceries for two people (and then blogged my grocery bill…and items purchased). Pretty much never went over budget, and bought very few packaged foods. Real food is cheaper, it just is. And, real food really is the answer. I can’t remember the last time I was sick, I don’t have a weight issue, and I sleep like a baby – something most Americans really can’t claim.

    It is clear you are fired up and passionate about this. Nice post!

    • Angela says:

      Oh, I forgot to add, I am the only one in my family that is not overweight or obese. My dad is severely obese and has been all my life, my mom is significantly overweight, and my brother is obese (and so is his wife) and has huge medical expenses due to kidney failure induced by doing the Atkins diet too long. The story continues in my entire extended family – obese or overweight, on and off diets. But, none of them have gotten the picture to establish a healthy, long-term eating pattern instead of going on and off fad diets. I grew up in Texas where food is the answer and there are more fast food establishments than anywhere I have ever seen. In my own personal experience, it has to come down to desire to make the right choices. If a person doesn’t want something enough, they will take the easiest path…

  21. Chuck says:

    It would be awesome! Of course, I question what else would be deemed “unhealthy”? Would organic, grass-fed meats, or butter be deemed unhealthy? What about peanut butter? If they just taxed anything that came out of a vending machine or soda dispenser then I would 10000% support. I’d have so much more money!

    • Jason says:

      There is a food plate that has been put out so wouldn’t that be a good place to start in terms of figuring out what is healthy and unhealthy?

  22. I have commented on enough comments but I am going to comment again.
    great thought provoking post Jason. I know your heart is in the right place here with the intent to get AMERICANS healthy. I applaud you for your passion and while I think alcohol, cigarettes and junk foods are awful, people need to make those choices for themselves and leave the government out of it (since they will just screw that up too! lol) I just wish we did not have to foot the bill in the long run with increased health care costs. This is a giant sticky octopus of a mess with it’s slimy tentibles reaching so many places!!
    People need to stop being lazy-it’s easy to grab fast food. It’s requires work to plan your meals and cook them. People need to be accountable to themselves for their choices and education is the way to change here.

    HIgh Five :)

    • Jason says:

      Education is definitely the way to go but the healthy eating brigade is behind the eight ball BIG TIME! These companies are spending billions while the spending on eating healthy is in the millions. Where do we get the money to educate? And here is another thing….even those that eat healthy are telling me its more expensive. I don’t understand that at all and it leads me to believe that it is portion control and people don’t know how to do that and yet on every box and millions of websites there are nutritional facts about what constitutes serving size.

      You are correct in people need to stop being lazy but I find that the only time they make a move to take control of their lives is when they are completely backed into a corner. Are taxes the end all be all? Absolutely not, but we have to start somewhere and if this conversation on this little blog in the middle of the internet starts that conversation then so be it.

  23. misszippy1 says:

    Agree. 100 percent!

  24. marlene says:

    You weren’t kidding about discussion! I am trying to get caught up here and unfortunately don’t have time to sit down and truly read this post and all the comments, but what a great topic! It is something my friends and I have discussed frequently. BRING ON THE FAT TAX!

    Interesting tidbit…. an extra large coffee or soft drink in Canada is about the same size as a medium in the US. Don’t get me wrong – it is an epidemic here also, but I am blown away by portion sizes when I am visiting the states.

    • Jason says:

      Marlene – portion sizes here are absurd. My wife and I order one dish and share it. FIrst the size of it but the cost as well. Order two dinners that cost $12.00 or one dinner and a share plate at $2.00 and I’m saving money, eating smaller portions until I am full and not bloated and it is just a wise decision.

  25. Matt Oravec says:

    … and this explains why you weren’t on twitter much yesterday ;) Loved Jeff’s $0.02 on this. Great points by both of you guys.

    Should repost the comments one day :)

    • Jason says:

      Jeff and I exchanged a number of emails and I am probably going to post them in the comments section after I clean up the language since I want this to remain a PG site but it was great and it opened my eyes to a lot and really keeps the conversation going.

  26. adena says:

    Fantastic post! I’m late catching up on posts so just here now. LOVE your post and the commentary is fantastic. Great points here. I’ll leave my own commentary as it’s been covered all over the place up there. Thanks Jason for always being a source of great information and making us think.

  27. Yeah, I blogged about the “Happy Meal Ban” in SF back in Nov. I’m more in favor of this TAX, then I am of blatant govt regulation of what we eat, buy, do, etc.. Personal responsibility has gone down the toilet in this country, and I think people need to recognize and accept responsibility for their actions. However, at least with this TAX, society might recoup a small portion of the enormous added expense these people are incurring. Money is a powerful factor that can cause action and really impact certain things. I gave the example of gas prices vs car size… but the difference here, is that with fat/bad food, cigarettes, soda, alcohol, cocaine, etc… we’re talking about addictive behavior. I doubt a tax will significantly impact adverse addictive behaviors. For me, it’s just all about recouping financial loss to society. Finally, here’s a lawsuit claiming that McDonalds made someone FAT: http://articles.cnn.com/2003-09-04/justice/mcdonalds.suit_1_obesity-suit-samuel-hirsch-explicit-allegations?_s=PM:LAW

  28. BDD says:

    Well, I guess I wont be going to McDonalds tonight, sighhhhhhhh

  29. BDD says:

    “People just don’t want to take responsibility for what they eat, but are they fully to blame?”

    Ding, ding, ding, Winner, winner, chicken or tempeh dinner. Yes, people are to blame, plan and simple, one chooses what to eat, where to eat, what they put in their mouth, what they spend their money on. If someone ballons up to 300 pounds, it is their fault, they made the decision to eat the way they eat. They chosed to be lazy and drive to a drive thru and eat 3 hamburgers and galloon size it. Society has become lazy and companies are smart and profitting from it. They know people are too lazy to spend 20-30 minutes cooking something good for them, when they can drive to the corner and get a meal and back in 5 minutes. Plain and simple. You think its bad now, wait a decade as things will even get more convient and make us more lazy.

  30. Matthew Beal says:

    I’m in agreement with taxing fast food. I also don’t understand why we don’t get tax deductions for healthy items. Gym memberships, exercise equipment, race fees, and bikes should all be tax deductible.

  31. Todd says:

    Brilliant idea Matthew and I like this idea of tax deductions for gym memberships, race fees, etc… as I know I spend plenty on all of these things. It may actually encourage others to become more healthy and exercise.

    • Todd says:

      I agree soda and fast food places should have extra taxes slapped on them, just as cigarettes do, instead of a dollar menu put enough tax on it to make it a 2 dollar or 3 dollar menu. Make the price of coke or pepsi double as well and I bet you see a drastic drop in sales of sodas and fast food, not to mention a drop in the waist lines of most americans. Also educating the public more, eventhough there is a ton of info out there already, most people tend to ignore it unfortunately. So really the only way to stop this may be by hitting them in the wallet.

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