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Let's try a fat tax

Published September 20, 2012 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The increasing cost of health care is going to bust our nation's debt (public and private). In 1980, the United States devoted 9 percent of its gross domestic product to health care; by 2020, it will be 19.8 percent (one out of every five dollars).

To cut that growth, Americans must eat better and be healthier. We should implement a "fat tax."

Right now, the price of milk is roughly the same for skim, 2 percent and whole, but a new study shows that "small price differences … at the point-of-purchase" will "alter consumer behavior and induce substitution to healthier options."

When the difference in price between a gallon of whole and skim milk is 50 cents or more, low-income shoppers are twice as likely to buy the lower-calorie milk. If a tax were put on similar unhealthy fatty foods, the switch to better food and the resulting improved health would help address the looming crisis in the cost of health care.

We tax smokes and booze to discourage their consumption, so why not fat? Last year, Denmark instituted a tax on all foods with a saturated fat content above 2.3 percent. Let's do the same.

Paul Durand

Salt Lake City