Would Taxing Unhealthy Foods Improve Public Health?

Would Taxing Unhealthy Foods Improve Public Health?


increasing the cost of cigarettes through tobacco taxes it’s one of the most effective ways to decrease the harms of smoking increasing the cost of cigarettes but just 10% could prevent millions of tobacco related deaths so what about taxing unhealthy food in general public health decision-makers have had three main options inform consumers with labeling nudge people with incentives or more heavy-handed approaches such as instituting regulations or taxes these policy approaches have proven crucial in reducing tobacco use alcohol abuse and deaths from car crashes for example driver education alone or by labeling cars with information about crash risk didn’t help as much as making sure they installed airbags given that heart disease alone kills 10 times more people than injuries on the road maybe the current epidemic of nutrition-related disease requires a similar multi-faceted approach even modest dietary improvements could significantly reduce the burden of chronic disease so maybe a national system of subsidies for good foods and taxes for bad could facilitate more sensible dietary choices but would they work a systematic review of the available evidence suggests that they do decreasing the consumption of unhealthy foods the more you tax the lower consumption drops and increasing the consumption of healthy foods the more you subsidize foods like fruits and vegetables the cheaper you make them the more may be eaten a small price difference succeed in decreasing our exposure to lead what about a tax to decrease our exposure to saturated fat such attacks could potentially save thousands of lives but wait a second wouldn’t such a tax disproportionately affect the poor yes that would benefit the most it’s like cigarette taxes the poor stand to benefit the most that’s the classic tobacco industry argument cigarette taxes or unfair and regressive burdening the poor the most to which the public health community responded cancer is unfair cancer disproportionately burdens the poor so taxes would affect the greatest health gains for the least well-off the so-called committee against unfair taxes was just a front organized and funded by the tobacco industry a common tactic used by the industry to hide its role in fighting tobacco taxes beyond just trying to overtly by politicians off the fact that the industry fought tooth and nail suggests that tobacco taxes can indeed affect consumption but much of the data on food taxes and subsidies have been based on models or stated preferences two hypothetical scenarios with people just saying they change consumption patterns based on price there hasn’t been as much real-world data you can put people through fancy 3d Supermarket simulators and find a 25% discount on fruits and veggies appears to boost from edgy purchases by 25% nearly 2 pounds a week but virtual vegetables don’t do you any good does this work out in the real world yes South Africa’s largest health insurance company started offering 10 or 25 percent cashback on healthy food purchases to hundreds of thousands of households up to 500 bucks a month why would they do that why would they give money away because it works apparently increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables and whole grains while decreasing the consumption of foods high in added sugar salt and fat including processed meats and fast food subsidies are more popular than taxes though in Europe a number of countries have instituted taxes on sugary foods or salty foods but Denmark was the first to introduce a tax unsaturated fat like meat and dairy but it only took the food industry about a year to squash it demonstrating that public health advocates are weak and tackling the issues of corporate power an enormous imbalance between the influence exerted by public health professionals compared to the political might of the food industry bringing to mind the fight over traffic light labeling on food that’s way too easy to understand so the industry went nuts and spent more than a billion dollars killing a proposal in favor of the bring your calculator to the grocery store guideline daily amount labeling to make it as confusing as possible Denmark ended up canceling the fat tax and shelving their sugar tax because the farming and food company interests claim too many jobs would be lost if people ate healthier apparently a healthy economy was more important than a healthy population ironically was abolished just when evidence the effects started to appear the introduction of the saturated fat tax did end up contributing to reducing the intake of saturated fat among Danish consumers from some meat and dairy products but not from sour cream huh why well the public ended up eating so much more low-fat sour cream that ended up outweighing the smaller reduction in high fat sour cream so you always have to think about the unintended consequences if people swap out sugary cookies for salty chips for example it might not be doing the public’s health many favors one field study of a tax on soda found that you can drop soft drink purchases at least in the short term but households may just end up buying more beer you


95 thoughts on “Would Taxing Unhealthy Foods Improve Public Health?

  1. We're putting out our Top 10 videos list tomorrow! Subscribe to our newsletter or check the blog tomorrow to see our ten must-watch for the year!

  2. Here's an idea: instead of taxing unhealthy foods, just end government subsidies to the meat dairy and egg industries, and allow the price of these items to accurately reflect their cost to produce. It is not the job of the government to save us from ourselves. Let the free market work, and hold people accountable for their own choices.

  3. taxing food patches the issue but doesn't bring to light the actual problem
    plus I don't want the govt deciding what's healthy and what's not because they've done such a good job in the past

  4. I understand you mean well and you'd love if everyone ate healthy. I love your videos however, economics is not your thing. A carbon tax would force people to limit consumption of carbon based products but at what cost? It harms the poor.

    You made a statement that said that the poor will benefit the most. Here's the thing, anyone who ate a plant based diet is going to benefit but you need to understand there are just people out there that prefer taste, not nutrition. And sometimes its usually the poorest. They love chicken nuggets and burgers. They just simply don't want fruits and vegetables. It would harm alot of people who know that plant based diets are good but dont want it. Its ultimately their choice.

    Socialism is force. And you are forcing people to consume what you think is right for them. I know plant foods are great but you dont have the right to choose for others. Let them make their own choice. Most likely they will stick with their junk food and at some point vegans will have to accept it. Stop forcing people to do what you think is right for them.

  5. I first saw this idea in 'The Hallelujah Diet' plan. It's 'radical' lol. Well, I'm ALL for it. We are taxed invisibly and visibly every day. Of course, dairy, meat, livestock all receive subsidies from the government, isn't that based on tax revenue.. sure it is! Imagine a tax break for each household to plant a garden (front yard garden!)

  6. This us BS first stop pricing healthy foods so high people on food stamps can't afford, then quick to criticize the lifestyle. People with conditions receiving disability live on a budget who is having trouble purchasing healthy foods what about the elderly who sacrifices meds and/or food then buy the cheapest meal to survive. If this country really want people to live a healthy lifestyle eliminate judgement provide patient education healthy affordable options fruits, veggies, not processed meat lean beef instead of hormonal fish, poultry and beef.

  7. the problem is that the poor are targeted for "unfair" and unethical practices, and campaigns of willful creation of ignorance because big pharma and big ag, benefit the most. That is not likely to change until and unless money is removed from politics and lobbyists are removed from washington.

  8. I believe education is the true way to change peoples lives through government programs and people like yourself but governments interfering in our everyday lives through taxation or probation is not the answer they will never lower the tax on healthy foods well taxing other foods

  9. Looking to the government to solve the problem of people eating junk would be a disaster. The government is the problem, not the solution.

  10. I see a lot of people saying that the subsidy for the food production should be ended instead of taxing unhealthy food, but that doesn't make sense on several levels. First of all, the subsidies aren't there to make your food cheap, it's there to protect local farmers against foreign production. This fact alone should tell you, that the price increase after dropping the subsidy is only marginal, because you would just get your food for basically the same price but with added (higher) transportation costs. The effect on consumption would therefore also be minimal. The other reason why this proposal is nonsense, is that the subsidy is for the agricultural product, not for the unhealthy food they CAN make out of it. It's like taxing water because it's an ingredient in Coca Cola.

  11. The left wants to give fast food workers $15/hr, so putting a tax on their product will make their product too expensive for the poor or dip into the revenue of their owners. The right will never put a food tax on the type of foods that their fat electorate love. Look at the push back when Michelle Obama tried to make school lunches healthy for kids. Then you have the head scratcher, where Dr John McDougal praises Donald Trump as our next president. smh

  12. What about starting with government schooling since most start their learning there? It is a novel idea since it is taxpayer subsidized to start with. Just use the planation of schooling!

  13. As a libertarian I can't back any tax. Taxation is theft.

    If you want to even out the playing field, you need to remove subsidies to the very industries, including crops that are used for feed….meat, dairy, eggs, corn, wheat, and corn are the most subsidized.

    I love your information but this is where I completely disagree with you.

    It's funny because the core 7 of you who advocate a plant-based diet all seem to talk about how much the meat, dairy, and egg industries are a part of the F D A…and they are…along with Monsanto and the drug companies. If the F D A were to be stripped of its powers and the subsidies were stripped from industry including their ability to write off marketing and advertising on their corporate taxes, the free market would be able correct, without theft of taxation, the imbalances in the costs of foods.

    As for insurance, well, if we didn't have nationalized/mandatory health insurance, insurance companies would have to compete not just with plans to fit the individual, but also in pricing. Obamacare has increased people's health insurance. If people had more of that money in their pocket, they can afford better food. But neither those who still remain in the Obamacare theft ring nor BigPharma want people to have that ability. Shoot I wouldn't doubt if BigAgri is just cheering on the failures of Obamacare.

    If you want REAL change, changes that make sense, you need to review how you look at government and review the idea of free market where the free market has compassion and government is force.

    I wish that those of you in the plant-based realm would not advocate the use of force (taxation) in order to push your own agendas.Just like the body, you have to strip the source of the problem, not slap a Band Aid on it. Using taxation doesn't solve the problem because the problem of cheap-ass shit food is directly related to the very government you want to tax people for eating shit food. WRONG ANSWER.

    Strip BigBusiness from their ties to government, their subsidies, their ability to write off marketing on their taxes and suddenly we have an even playing field of plant-based versus animal-based. Prices would rise in meat, dairy, and eggs and not because of government force but because of market force which is more powerful and longer lasting.

  14. like so many other "taxes" it will not make dent in unwise purchases if you still let people on the food stamp program buy it but taking things like "potato chips and soda" off the food stamp program is seen as discrimination against the poor

  15. all i have to say is this model operates under the assumption that in the food desert I as a poor person live in, they'd put more grocery stores that sold this cheaper food. they won't, that would require investing in a poor area of poc. so come on doc you sound like a well off white person speaking on nuances you can't understand. so do more non academic research about the history of ghettos and food deserts and get back to me

  16. more rules = more cheating/corruption/totalitarianism
    = less freedom/individuality/options

    dont even start the war – convince them until the critical mass is reached
    if the message is "true" (not only in a scientificly proven way but also in a practical way and one that fits ppls traditions/believes well enough) it will convince eventually

  17. Typical food police

    put the BASTARD gay imam in the white mosque's sodomized in place, then we can tax the hell outta people making their own choices.

  18. Taxation is theft. Removing all subsidies and allowing insurance companies to offer better premiums to those with healthy eating habits would be a far more sensible approach.

  19. They need to pull subsidization from dairy and corn and put it towards healthy vegetables and fruits.. but there is just too much corruption in the government, too many politicians with vested interests in these industries.

  20. Why not add taxes to the manufacturers…instead of the consumers? And increase subsidies to farmers for non GMO, organic fruits and vegetables, and decrease subsidies to crops such as GMO fruits and vegetables.

  21. Omg. Did the results of the last election not mean anything to you? People are sick of government meddling. No more willy nilly taxing and certainly no more taxes just to punish people!!!! Taxes were not meant to be punitive. Start by ENDING GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES. That way meat and many of the most unhealthy foods which are corn based will get expensive on their own. The government never really subsidized tobacco like they subsidize big corn etc. , so you can't compare what happened with taxing cigarettes with curbing the current situation of unhealthy food consumption by taxes. Comparing cigarette smoking to eating is like apples to oranges. People don't have to smoke and they aren't born with a taste for smoke. They do have to eat and people are born with a taste for sugar and fat.

  22. This is an awful idea. The way to do it is to educate not to take away freedoms. All this does is let the government decide what is eaten and not the indivdual. Instead of that we should not be telling people in schools that you die on a vegan diet and that you need milk, meat and other unhealthy foods to be healthy. My teachers have told students that vegans are not healthy, thats what needs to be fixed. And taxing will only benefit the poor who will have to buy healthy foods. Those who can afford unhealthy foods will still be unhealthy.

  23. I don't think it would, pretty sure the fucking solution isn't to tax shit food, it's seems like the logical thing to do would be lower the ridiculously astronomical price of fruits and veg and other whole foods, but again I said logical, and unfortunately we live in a world where most people are incapable of critical thinking.

  24. Just not subsidising unhealthy foods would do the job. Meat industry subsidies bring down a burger from £25 ($30) by some estimates, I've heard

  25. Even social democracy in Scandinavia cannot stifle corporate influence on policy. Corporations and the rich have proven time and time again that they wish to crush the health and the economic well being of the mass of people. Your employer exploits you and destroys the planet, and your government gives you no choice but to perpetuate it.

  26. One person has no right to FORCE the behavior of another person. Encouragement, education, advertising, YES! But taxation and regulation to force behavior, NO! That is immoral because no human being has a right to force behavior on another. This is the first video of yours that I must disagree with.

  27. Don't tax unhealthy foods and don't tax others to subsidize someone else's insurance policy.

    If you want to eat like crap then when you get health insurance you will pay the higher rates. It would take little time to do a quick health screening once every year or two. You go in, get weighed, blood pressure, pulse, height, list of medications you take, and do you smoke or not. Then let the insurance companies categorize people into groups of other like individuals.

    That said, don't subsidize food growers at all either.

  28. How about using the knowledge we have to bring back healthy food. You want people to eat healthy make healthy more available. My income is small and healthy is not always affordable

  29. Very interesting video however I think the only way to stop people consuming animal products is to educate them on the harm that they actually cause to their health, environment and animals.

  30. My reverse ask… how to we LOWER the prices of healthy foods?

    The 'Produce' and 'Health Food' section of the supermarket have some of the highest prices and most ludicrous mark-ups I've ever seen. Totally playing on the people who follow health trends with labels like 'SuperFoods' , 'Vegan', and 'Gluten Free'. And the price to portion ratio that comes with all this is just a ridiculous. Instead of buying a back of potato chips you decide to buy a bag of veggie chips @ $5.00 for literally two hand fulls of chips. Rip Off!

  31. We don't really know. But there is one thing we do know. Taxing anything generates more government revenue for politicians to mismanage. All the while meat and dairy are subsidized there should never be a discussion on taxing it. We should instead be pushing our Governments to remove subsidies which are unfair and completely immoral. Watch the price of meat sky rocket without subsidies. No need then to tax anyone, just remove the corrupt subsidies.

  32. People NEED to be Informed on a Large Scale about the Dangers of Fast food, along with meat and dairy. If the public still chooses to eat The same way after they know what the risks are, then there is nothing more to do, they'll find out the hard way.

  33. I can't support that, I am all for eating healthy, but I can't do that to other people. People have the right to eat whatever they want as humans, I have no say in what you eat or what anyone else eats. Taxing unhealthy foods is just unethical in my opinion, and its against freedom. In the U.S we were founded on the idea of freedom, taxation is theft, if a person wants to kill themselves I think they should have the right, and they shouldn't be taxed. Why should people have to pay more money just because they made the lifestyle choice to eat meat? If anything, tax the business' for the pollution, or something like that. Tax water use if it is super high (which I am guessing meat farms use a lot of water). I believe that each person should be the driver of their destiny, for this we need less taxation, and less interference from the government. As much as I hate the animal products industry, I must respect my fellow humans right to freedom. All that I can do ethically is try to support vegan industries, and to help educate people on their lifestyle choices… If we start taxing things just cause they are bad for you, then what makes me different from Nazis, or tyrants??? Education not oppression.

  34. I favor eliminating subsidies, but since our politicians are owned by special interests, including the animal agriculture industries, I am unlikely to get my wish. If socialized Scandi nations cannot overcome this conflict-of-interest hurdle, how can the U.S. of A.? : (

  35. I like the health insurance route, I don't want the government involved in any way with my food. The best solution would be to reduce government interference with the food supply as much as possible.
    Get rid of subsidies for corn and soy, that will force prices to increase naturally.

    Fuck taxes. People need to deal with the consequences of their actions.

  36. Many comments are responding to this video by claiming that taxing unhealthy foods (such as animal products) is a restriction of the freedom of people. I'm curious if anybody can provide a logical argument as to why the ability of a human to buy animal products to get taste pleasure justify funding an industry that slaughters tens of billions of animals annually, and contributes massively to ecosystem destruction and climate change. And I'd also be curious if anybody would be able to explain to me why humans should have the freedom to eat other species, but not other humans? I'll be happy to have a conversation with anybody.

  37. So even public health advocates can't do much? Wow…. I was considering a career in public health but if I'm not going to have any real impact on communities then why do it? Is there any careers where I could actually make a positive change in people's lives health-wise? I am just so passionate about health and nutrition.

  38. I'm on of the South Africans Dr Greger mentions that benefits from the Health Insurance subsidy. My plant based diet gets a nice 25% discount. It makes it so much cheaper. Keep in mind this is much different to a public subsidy which is subject to lobbying. A private health insurance company gains nothing from subsidizing the wrong food

  39. The problem is that no one can guarantee what is healthy. Remember when they made McDonalds stop using lard and replace it with vegetable oil. Are apples with Roundup worse than a coke? Are meat, eggs, gluten…. unhealthy – CAFO? And then the taxes are just more money for politicians to spend and steal, when they should be put in a fund for future healthcare. And then there's the problem that it is mainly a tax on the poor who depend on extra large fries to get the kids enough calories to survive.

  40. Just by eliminating animal agriculture subsidies would significantly make less supply and quantity demanded because of higher prices and significantly increase vegan products with higher in demand, supply, and quantity demanded and lower prices. Let's get corporate money out of politics immediately/ASAP to at least have a chance to make the case to the public with free market of ideas to buy more vegan products to encourage less demand of animal products and soon will eradicate the animal agricultural industries. Until corporate money in politics is eradicated, animal agricultural industries will remain powerful duping the public to not change and the free market of ideas debate can not sustain.

  41. A very childish and also fascist way to "improve public health." Put a gun to people's heads and punish them financially for making their own choices. Nice way to interact with other humans. Cry to bid daddy government. Why don't you just mind your own business.

  42. My state nearly passed a law to restrict people from using food stamps to buy beans, red potatoes, nuts, or pasta sauce, because those are "unhealthy" foods. An amendment was passed to allow all dairy products, because this is Wisconsin, and we can't threaten the dairy industry. Bottom line, we cannot trust our government to figure out what's healthy.

  43. Hi Dr Greger ! This might sound super weird but could i know what your skin care is ? You're glowing 24/7 haha ! You're a huge inspiration for me as a medical student and i'm looking forward to one day do my own researches and studies 🙏💪🙌📽

  44. The "sugar tax" that is gaining a lot of prominence is by a hair's breadth excluding completely raw fruit drinks. The modern government dogma of healthy eating is that sugar in all its forms including fruit drinks is bad, because they are again trying in their reductionism to break things down despite all their theories collapsing over and over against just eating raw, healthy, natural food. The IDEA that I would be taxed extra for buying fruit juice under the guise it was bad for my health, it's just far too close for comfort.

  45. Rather than tax unhealthy foods, it would be less controversial and better for the poor to subsidize all whole fruits, grains, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Then there would be an additional incentive to consume healthy foods.

  46. A gallon of water is cheaper than a gallon of any other kind of beverage, but people still consume those more expensive beverages because the difference in cents and dollars is not enough to change consumption habits. Many are not price conscious, but subsidies for healthy foods are still a good idea for those who are cost conscious.

  47. You don't even have to tax, just eliminate subsidies on grain for factory farms (and ethanol while you are at it) and you directly increase the price of meat without having to pass a tax and you save the taxpayers money.

  48. absolutely love your work, common sense is not very common these days , absolutely the best nutritionist on the planet, never let up the good work 😊

  49. If people cannot be free to make their own bad decisions without interference then they are not free to make decisions. Stop trying to run everyone's lives with government and stick to just convincing them based on the merits of just eating healthy.

  50. not all sat fats are bad. blanket labelling of sat fats in general is misleading. coconut fat is the healthiest medium chain fatty acid in the world that boosts immunity, fights microorganisms, improves metabolism, fights obesity.

  51. It is all good until somebody important realizes he will lose money and then works magic on politicians and turn on the media hounds.

  52. I'm really glad to see you tackling this even though it's a bit outside the bounds of strictly nutrition topics. As someone who isn't exactly poor but can't really afford to get very sick, taking care of my health nutritionally (and with exercise) is a top priority not just for my comfort but for my wallet!

  53. Under a Trump administration I don't see this ever happening lol If anything was going to happen we would take away their subsidies which is imo the best route.

  54. I love it when people try to find ways to force their lifestyles on others and tell them it's for their own good! How about it's my right to smoke and eat myself to death? Go be well-meaning Nazis elsewhere.

  55. Or we could just inject a little free market capitalism into the food industry and let the morality of the consumer determine the morality of the industry… The local/non-GMO food movement was instrumental in chasing Monsanto away. Now let's end the subsidies, end the taxes, and just keep the state out of the way of the consumer and producer alike. Nobody can know what's best for the individual citizen better than that individual citizen.

  56. this is fascinating. i favor incentives to eat healthily. of course the health rewards are huge, but people don't believe it until they do it. reward usually works the best to get people to do things. also, there is no judgment. no one is overtly saying that animal products are "bad". the degree to which you eat fewer animal products and replace them with plants is the degree to which your health will improve.

  57. If you want to tax bad food, tax processed foods. That means processed carbs and processed fats. But don't tax natural food sources. Animal food sources are natural too. And don't start about the way animal products are produced, because most of the vegetables and fruits you eat don't have any chance surviving in nature. We created them. Most fruits are sweeter than their ancestors originals, Most vegetables, the way we know them, didn't exist 500 years ago.

    If you want to eat natural, go live in the florest and see how long it takes untill you start setting traps to catch some animals to eat.

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