Would It Be Economically Beneficial to Britain to Introduce An Obesity Tax?

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Would It Be Economically  Beneficial to Britain to Introduce An Obesity Tax?

Although obesity is a worldwide phenomenon in the 21st century, its impact varies between countries. Across the Channel in France less than one person in ten is obese, while in Japan it’s less than one in twenty (see Figure 1 below).  In England, at present 1 in 4 of all Britons have been declared medically obese - with obesity rates for both men and women surging in recent years (see Figure 2 below). It has recently been predicted by several tabloid newspapers and the BBC that - “Britain is an Obesity Time bomb”- 30th August 2009 (Sunday Express) with “Half of Britons Obese by 2050”-17th October 2007 (Daily Mail). However in this piece of coursework I intend to look at what has caused the rise in obesity over the last 50 years and whether an 'Obesity Tax' is a viable option.

Ali Muriel – Taxing the Fat – 2005 –

The Cause

So why are the obesity rates in the UK rising at such an alarming rate? Many factors have been blamed such as the press, fast food outlets, TV's and a lack of exercise. However the implication seems to be that either people are getting hungrier (eating more) or they're getting lazier (exercising less).

It is true that if you do less exercise and eat more calories then you will put on weight, therefore since more people are putting on weight it must mean that they are doing this.

However it could also mean that more of the population are eating different unhealthier foods such as microwave burgers or high calorie ready meals, therefore outlining that it may be down to people having less time to cook meals from scratch meaning that convenience comes before health.

On the other hand if we actually look into this we can see a strange and not widely publicised fact that Britons seem to be eating less than they used to as Figure 3 below shows. You can see that in 1974 the UK consumed over 2,500 calories per person per day, but by 2004 this had fallen by 10% to just 2,250 calories proving that possibly junk food isn’t to blame after all. Unfortunately it is also evident that the calories consumed in the UK have risen since 1990 whereas before they had fallen to as low as 2,050 calories per person per day.

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The explanation

Therefore how do we explain a rise in obesity without a substantial rise in calorie consumption?

Consuming calories has clear costs and benefits for the economy of any country – the cost is both the money you spend on the food (financial cost) and the time you spend preparing it (time cost). The benefits are also fairly obvious; food is pleasurable and nourishes the body.

Expending calories also has costs and benefits, but these vary greatly according to the ...

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This is an excellent piece of economic analysis. Although I fundamentally disagree with the practicality of the suggested solution I admire the arguments and analysis very much. It is systematically argued