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Essay on “Should the Government Place a Tax on Junk Food and Fatty Snacks?”

As American waistlines continue to expand, the concept of a tax on junk food and fatty snacks is a hotly debated topic. There is certainly a precedent for taxing items that are blatantly not good for consumers. In many locations, cigarettes are taxed to the point of not being affordable, which achieves the goal of reducing usage.

However, applying such a tax to the food industry becomes a greater challenge. The British Medical Journal states that each cigarette takes 11 minutes off of the smoker’s life, meaning there is no safe way to use a cigarette. It is designed to damage everyone equally. The issue with junk food and fatty snacks is not only the ingredient list, but how the product is used by the consumer. A healthy adult who gives into a craving for a donut once a year is most likely not going to die from the donut. An overweight diabetic who eats a donut every day risks losing sight, limbs, and even his or her life. This is the same product, but a very different effect based on user practices. Further, it may be difficult to determine which foods are subject to tax for being identified as “unhealthy.” Many diet plans have drastically different interpretations as to what should be eaten and what should not. As an additional challenge, the food industry will be very resistant to any laws that impact their bottom line. For McDonalds alone, that is over a billion dollars per year.

However, the high cost of America’s weight issue requires action, and perhaps small initial steps are necessary when it comes to regulating the food industry. There are foods in the grocery aisles that most reasonable Americans would define as lacking any nutritional value and that are truly junk foods. Those foods should be the starting point for a much larger discussion.