On January 10th, 2018, the American Journal of Public Health, a team of public health, nutrition, and policy researchers from New York University and Tufts University, published a paper to figure out how feasible it would be for the government to impose taxes on unhealthy foods. The researchers concluded that it’s definitely possible and they recommend putting a tax on junk food to encourage consumers to choose a healthier alternative. This tax doesn’t just make people pay more for junk food but rather it also discourages people from consuming them altogether.
The taxes derived from junk food would be invested in public health purposes, especially to help low-income citizens who may not have healthy food resources in their communities. The authors of this report were hopeful that this research could provide state and local governments with insights and frameworks of the public health benefits of taxing junk food. However, many people have noted that these taxes on junk food may need local support in order to bring awareness to the situation and to affect change.
Despite this feasible plan, many people doubt that the federal government will willingly support this due to the lack of political capital and the extensive lobbying that goes against it. A tax on junk food would negatively affect the food industry and the industry itself is known to be assertive when protecting their profits. Other than influential lobbying practices, the food industry was also known for promoting ‘industry-funded junk science’ that largely supported their position and interests.
“The food industry has a very strong lobbying component. They would join together and lobby against this,” said Jennifer Pomeranz, an Assistant Professor of Public Health Policy and Management at New York University. “Industry opposition to public health policies, in general, has been very successful.”
In 2015, Coca-Cola, stapled as “the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages”, promoted a science-based solution to solve obesity: a focus on exercise rather than worrying about the amount of what people eat or drink. Of course, health experts said that this message was misleading and also part of an effort by Coca-Cola to deflect criticism about the role of sugary drinks in contributing to obesity and Type 2 diabetes.