I’ve often felt that that the line between junk food and cigarettes is more fine than most would like to think. They are addictive products created by companies with desire for profit, not the well-being of people. The demand for them is supported by people’s ignorance and willingness to underestimate the damaging effects of something that feels good at the time. And the effects are not only damaging to the individual but costly to the health care system, and damaging to society as a whole because they diminish physical and mental well-being.
So, when the idea of a junk food tax first started popping up, it seemed natural to me. People who choose to feed themselves “food” that is guaranteed to be damaging to their health ought to contribute more money to the health care system. Plus, making junk food more expensive seems like a pretty good way to decrease the amount that people buy and consume, doesn’t it?
Recently, the Ontario Medical Association made the following recommendations to their provincial government:
- decreased taxes on healthy food and increased taxes on junk food
- restrictions on marketing junk food to children
- graphic warning labels on pop and other high calorie foods containing little or no nutritional value
- retail displays of high-sugar, high-fat foods with nutritional information prominently placed, making consumers aware of the health risks.
- restricting the availability of sugary, low-nutrition foods in sports and other recreational facilities frequented by young people.
There are complicated arguments against OMA’s proposal. The idea of being in a nanny state, or the government infringing too much on people’s freedoms, is a response that comes up. People don’t want the government to treat them like children. But how different is this from other issues of public safety controlled by the government, like seat belts and speed limits? The so-called nanny state is not the same as Orwell’s Big Brother. While Big Brother seeks to suppress and control, proposed health food regulations could help us find freedom from our own destructive urges for fat, salt, and sugar.
It has also been argued that the junk food tax will not, in fact, help our society at all because it will hurt the poor and lower middle class families who rely on buying these foods for their children, which will then hurt the economy. To me, this is a flimsy point which actually defeats itself. If these families can afford nothing but junk food, and I realize this is the truth for a lot of families, then OMA’s proposal should DEFINITELY be put into action. When taxes on healthy food are decreased, the situation will change. Health is a basic human right, and if you’re not getting nutrition in your diet you are not healthy.
If you still aren’t sure where you stand, remember that the Ontario Medical Association came up with the proposal. It’s fair to say they know their stuff on health. Not only that, but being a group of medical professionals who often profit from illness, there are no financial benefits to them if kids in Ontario start eating more veggies. Sometimes we all need someone to guide us when we don’t understand the best way to do things ourselves and maybe if junk food hits people in the pocketbook first, it won’t hit them in the heart later.
– By Ally