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, fro