A report from the
For the average American, the report says, obesity has a greater impact on health status and health-care costs than smoking or heavy drinking. Obesity adds $200 billion to annual health-care spending, half of which is funded by taxpayers, and private premiums for non-obese workers are nearly $26 billion higher each year because of obesity-generated health-care costs.
To combat the growing problem of obesity, the report suggests policymakers consider the approach used to reduce tobacco use, combining education with taxes on the product. This approach resulted in a reduction in the share of adults who smoke from 42 percent in 1965 to less than 20 percent by 2007.
The report estimates a 10-percent tax on the most fattening and nutrient-deficient foods would generate $500 billion in revenue over 10 years. If combined with a subsidy that lowered the price of fruits and vegetables by 10 percent, net revenue would exceed $350 billion.
The report does acknowledge that some foods that are potentially fattening are nutritionally beneficial if people consume moderate quantities, and the recommendation for taxing focuses on foods and drinks that offer little or no nutritional benefit in relation to calories.