We often hear calls for a junk food tax or “fat tax” when there’s discussion of Australia’s growing obesity problem. The idea behind such a tax is that it would enable governments to subsidise healthy foods so that they’re more affordable, and make unhealthy foods comparatively expensive so people buy less of them.
But would they really? Is cost really the most powerful determinant of what food products people buy?
Let’s consider the likely effects of a junk food tax. Researchers claim that a 20% tax on a can of soft drink would be a sufficient deterrent to purchasing it.
It’s easy to visualise this: someone approaches the refrigerator in a convenience store wanting to buy a drink and ready to make a decision based on taste and cost. If a soft drink is more expensive than low-fat milk or water, it becomes less attractive and we could see a change in buying behaviour – and the attendant reduction in the consumption of obesity-promoting products.