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362. Losing Weight by Fat Tax?

Lee, Dong-eun 기자2016.06.18 17:01:43

           These days, the cooking and culinary programs on television are scoring high on the ratings charts, sweeping people off their feet. Many people get recipes from them and follow them closely. However, many critics have raised concerns about the overuse of sugar in the programs, which leads to diabetes, obesity, and other adult diseases. The per capita consumption of sugar in Korea has increased rapidly, recently reaching 25kg. Eventually, the Korean Government has suggested  imposing a  sugar tax.  Many countries have already tried to impose taxes to protect the health of people, especially from obesity. The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined obesity as a global epidemic, so various nations have enforced tax policies in order to reduce the obesity figures. However, they have in fact caused lots of side effects as well as  positive results.

           Denmark primarily introduced the obesity tax policy in October, 2011, when 13% of Danes were obese, and 47% were overweight. The Danish Government imposed 16 Danish Krone for each kilogram on all foods which have saturated fat above 2.3%. They expected the obesity tax would reduce the fat intake by 10%.

           Subsequently, the top constitutional body of France approved a new tax on sugary drinks that aimed to fight obesity in December, 2011. 9% of the nation were obese in France. This is  lower than some European countries but is higher than others. The tax, which worked out to one euro cent per can of drink, was expected to bring in 120 million euro in state revenues.

           Furthermore, The Hungarian Government has imposed a surtax on soft drinks, energy drinks and some foods which have a lot of sugar and salt, since October, 2011. Hungary has the eighth highest level of obesity in the world; 19% of the nation are obese, and 34% are overweight. The Hungarian Government levied 13 cents per 100g of chocolate and 20 cents per bag of potato chips. These taxes were named as the Hamburger Tax at first, but finally became known as the  Fried Confection Tax and the Packaged Food Tax. They were expected to bring in 77.8 million dollars in revenues.

           According to The Korean Society for the Study of Obesity, these kinds of fat taxes have positive effects on the reduction in obesity rates and are good sources of tax revenue. For example, if  the government raises the price of a can of drink by 20%, it can cause weight loss of  0.7 to 1.7kg in adults. Furthermore, if the government imposes taxes at 10% of the price, adult obesity rates can be reduced by about 1.3%. Besides, a fat tax would also be a new tax revenue  that  could be used for other services of the nation. In fact, the tax raised 216 million dollars in new revenue in Denmark, and the Legislature planned a small increase in income taxes and the elimination of some deductions to offset the loss of that money after the abolition of this policy.

           However, there are also some side effects which many researchers have criticized and which have led to the eventual abolition of fat taxes around the world. In Denmark, lawmakers  repealed the fat tax after just one year, citing a harmful effect on businesses and consumer buying power. 70% of Danes launched into a diatribe against the government policy. This was  because food consumption did not change from fattening food to healthy food and the consumption of junk food did  not decrease  markedly  due to the  fat tax. Furthermore, when the tax was introduced, Danes purchased the taxed items from other countries, like Germany, where they were relatively cheap. As a result, the fat tax caused 4.7% of inflation and reduced  real wages by 0.8% in Denmark, 2012. Moreover, it led to the loss of 1,300 jobs and damaged the  food industry critically. Besides, the leading consumers of the fattening foods were low incomers so that the fat tax had a particularly crippling financial impact on them, which could have been a serious social problem. The fat tax is also a kind of differential taxation, which can cause confusion of the tax system .

           As the eating habits of Korean have changed quickly these days, obesity is not the only problem in western countries but also is a growing problem in Korea. The Korean Government is also trying to suggest imposing a fat tax. However, the main logic that imposing additional tax on fattening foods helps to reduce obesity levels is too simplistic to apply in practice. Thus, governments should develop the idea considering the social, economical and cultural situations in each countries.

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