Friday, April 29, 2011

Enough with the "fat taxes"! #CON11

My friend and colleague Arya wrote a blog post the other day where he took some issue with the concept of legislation that targeting obesity.

I don't disagree with him. I can't say it any more plainly. We shouldn't be passing legislation that targets obesity. Such legislation undoubtedly will just fuel further bias and stereotype and will almost certainly do more harm than good.

But yet I'm all for soda taxes, changes to our agricultural subsidy system, tax incentives to encourage exercise, banning advertising targeting children, and posting calories on menus.

Am I an oxymoron? (And yes, I realize many readers may be giggling and thinking, no, you're just a moron).

I don't think so.

The reason I don't think so is that all of those legislative efforts, they're only "fat taxes" and "obesity legislation" if you look at them through obesity blinders.

Yes, all of those interventions on paper might impact on obesity, but none of them target obesity, instead they target unhealthy products and unhealthy behaviours - products and behaviours that are unhealthy for everyone, not just for individuals with obesity.

All Canadians ought to drink less sugar sweetened beverages. All Canadians ought to exercise more. All Canadians would benefit from shifting agricultural subsidies to make healthy foods cheaper and unhealthy foods more expensive. All Canadian children should to be protected from predatory advertising. And all Canadians could stand to be empowered with caloric information at point of sale.

So let's stop talking about fat taxes and obesity legislation, and instead let's take a step back and recognize that these initiatives are there to empower, encourage and persuade healthier lifestyles both for persons with obesity and for persons without. We need to stop talking about them in terms of obesity as to do so is unfair, inaccurate, and potentially dangerous.

The fact is, we can all stand to make healthier choices.

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  1. Mark Haub, PhD11:56 am

    Dr. Freedhoff -- It's comforting to know that you, as a bariatric physician, are able to see the big picture. Do you think your view is common amongst your peers? I am speaking at a physicians meeting pertaining to the metabolic syndrome next week, I'm interested to feel the obesity 'pulse' of those in the US midwest.

    Great read as always!
    Cheers -- Dr. Haub

  2. Thanks Dr. Haub,

    I would hope that my view, whether common or not, is one that my peers would readily embrace.


  3. The problem with a fat tax is that the government will probably get it wrong and tax the wrong foods.

  4. Michael that's what I'm worried about too. I am thinking with the pop tax, the artificially-sweetened beverages will get taxed too. That would suck.

  5. @Patti (late to the party though I am): Most artificially-sweetened beverages are detrimental to drink as well. Coke Zero is artificially sweetened and contains very few (if any) calories, but cola does more to reduce bone density than almost any other factor.

    So if sin taxes are levied on artificially-sweetened beverages, so much the better!