Should ‘fat tax’ be imposed in all states of India?
A fat tax is a surcharge imposed upon fattening food, beverages or on overweight individuals. It is meant for the sole purpose of discouraging “unhealthy diets and offset the economic costs of obesity.” Obesity leads to various other diseases that are expensive to treat like coronary heart disease and leads to surge in price increase in the medical budget.
While Britain is still toying with the idea of introducing fat tax soon, Japan and Denmark are already there. Recently, Kerala decided to join the league when CPI (M) government decided to levy a 14.5 per cent fat tax on burgers, pizzas and other junk food served at branded restaurants which are known to be detrimental to consumption.
With over 50 outlets of fast-food restaurants chains like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Subway, etc. in Kerala, the move was criticized by foodies and well accepted by the advocates of healthy eating. Since the fat tax is going to stay in Kerala, shouldn’t the rest of India also be introduced to this health conscious tax?Yes:1. Rise in consumption of unhealthy food:
With the constant rise in the number of fast-food restaurant chains in every city and townships of India, there is a rising fad for unhealthy and junk eating in people. People are on the go at most of the time and in haste they usually pick meal at these takeaways ending up consuming more carbohydrate, calories and fat. Homemade and healthy cooking is on decrease owing to the current lifestyle. This tax would ensure that people do not make it a habit of regular eating at these fast-food joints.2. Rise in health problems:
Obesity, Coronary heart diseases, diabetes, renal problems and many other known and unknown health problems begin with unhealthy eating. More and more people are falling into one or the other of the above mentioned categories of diseases that arise out of unhealthy eating and continue to deteriorate if healthy diet is not followed. PCOS in women which leads to infertility and other serious illness is also due to detrimental eating habits and is not curable too. Its symptoms could be reduced only with a lifestyle change.3. Following examples:
Hungary has imposed a fat tax on food high in sugar and fat. Mexico has levied the same on sugary drinks, breakfast cereals, and sweets. The USA is debating highly on imposing taxes on sugary drinks too. Philadelphia went ahead and levied soda tax. Japan imposed ‘metablo law’ which measured waist size of citizens to determine taxes levied on them. It will be highly beneficial for the country and its people if we could take the example and go ahead with increasing the taxes on food products that are known to be dangerous to health.4. Looking at our statistics:
India houses the third largest number of obese people in the world. Now that is not a rank to be proud of. 30 million of our people are obese and if the current trend of unhealthy eating does not slow down, the number is said to reach 75 million in the next 10 years. Childhood obesity is leading to type 1 and 2 diabetes which leads to major health problems later as they grow. Is this what we are going to leave the next generation of the country with? Fat tax is a good initiative and must be encouraged in other states as well.5. Loss to economy:
Increase in the costs of treating diseases that arise out of obesity is increasing rapidly as more and more people are known to report at least one of the major problems sooner or later in life. You lose time and money on your job when you get yourself treated for them. There is huge loss of work as employees take leave for getting treated for their ailments. Levying taxes on the junk food would make they pay for their irresponsible dietary habits which is leading to a loss on the whole of the economy at large.No:1. Fat chances of helping:
It is to be noted that Kerala imposed the fat tax on goods bought off branded fast-food restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Burger Kings while these are not the sole or greater reason behind the increase in obesity in Indians. Our indigenous cooking habits are notorious of using too much fried, spicy and creamy products which is not going to decrease any less with the fat taxes being imposed on burgers and pizzas. Take a tour north and every restaurant is steaming hot with butter chicken and paranthas.2. Controversial:
It is not specifically known that which food ingredient is fattier than the other. Anything in excess will eventually lead to adding to the fat constituent of the body. Saturated fat and processed food are likely to cause more harm but so are the small scale restaurants that serve fried ingredients smoked with butter and cheese. It will only add to the cost for people as they would still continue to crave more and eat more. That’s how it works with fast food cravings anyways. If you try to impose a ban on it, people start wanting it more. Denmark had to do away with its fat tax because it was found out that people were bringing those food products from across borders after the tax was levied.3. Other reasons behind obesity:
It is worth noting that unhealthy eating or snacking at junk food is not the sole reason behind increase in obesity rate of our country and hence levying taxes on them isn’t the sole solution. It has been scientifically proven that a lot of other factors like poor portion sizing, genetic factors and lack of exercise together constitute to make a person obese. Unless and until people themselves want a lifestyle change in order to stay healthy, no taxes could help them.4. Unhealthy eating won’t stop:
Most of these unhealthy and processed foods are consumed by people to fight anxiety and stress. They act like natural consolers for people who are depressed. These people often tend to eat more than required as they look at food for solace. They wouldn’t stop consuming high calorie food even if taxes are levied.
A fat tax has fat chances of bringing about any change in obesity in India, the land of extravagant cuisines and gourmet food products flaunted at every other occasion. We simply need an excuse to devour on sweet dishes, our sweet tooth is always on the lookout for an occasion if not a reason.
Fat tax could help in encouraging people choose their food smartly when the tax is levied equally on all unhealthy food products and restaurants including the branded and the indigenous ones.