In yet another example of using taxes to control people’s behavior, it is now being proposed (not by lawmakers so far) to battle obesity by taxing food based on its number of calories.
There may be an economic cure for the nation’s obesity: Hike the price of food.
Raising the price of a calorie for home consumption by 10 percent might lower the percentage of body fat in youths about 8 or 9 percent, according to new research from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“An increase in the price of a calorie regardless of its source would improve obesity outcomes,” according to a working paper that three researchers prepared for the private, nonprofit bureau.As the nation confronts an epidemic of flab, many experts have pointed a finger at low food prices as a cause, leading to proposals for taxes on sugary drinks, fast-food and junk food, as well as reductions in government farm subsidies. . . .
In recent years, such research has spurred an array of proposals to make food — or at least some foods, such as those with high sugar or fat content — more expensive. But the most direct means, economists say, is to tax calories.Abigail Okrent, an Agriculture Department researcher, and Julian Alston, a professor at the University of California at Davis, have compared various options: a fat tax, a sugar tax, a calorie tax and a general food tax.
“A calorie tax would get you the biggest bang for the buck; it’s the most direct way of taxing obesity,” Okrent said.