Fat taxes will not compel people to adopt a healthy lifestyle

Public Service Europe discusses new IEA research

It is well known that obesity is a severe, self-inflicted health problem of epidemic proportions in the developed world. It is without doubt that there are medical risks associated with obesity - hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers and so on. In addition, the obese are more likely to suffer low esteem, social disadvantage and reduced libido. Denmark has imposed taxes on some products - butter, crisps and mince - and British Prime Minister David Cameron, at the Conservative Party Annual Conference in 2011, raised the possibility of a similar tax in the United Kingdom.

Apart from such an intervention being fundamentally at odds with basic Conservative philosophy, such a tax would be most unlikely to have other than deleterious outcomes. Unlike tobacco - calories are not addictive and unlike alcohol, calories are not potentially a cause of violence. Hence to regard them as a harmful product requires some special justification. Consumer ignorance of the adverse health consequences could be put forward as an argument for taxation. It is clear, however, from the abundance of UK government health campaigns, diet plans, health clubs, diet sodas and low calorie supermarket meals that consumers do not wish to be obe