Should unhealthy food be taxed like cigarettes and alcohol? New research suggests that a financial penalty may be the key to deterring the purchase of diet-busting food—even though other studies have found the opposite.
In a recent Dutch study, college students chose a hypothetical lunch from a menu three times. Each time, the prices of the high-calorie items increased—first by 25 percent, then 50 percent.
“Some subjects had a larger budgets than others, but almost everyone purchased food with fewer calories when the tax was introduced,” explains study author Janneke Giesen, Ph.D., professor at Maastricht University. “People reduced their hypothetical consumption by 100 to 300 calories.”
Still, some research suggests taxes won’t do much—like a Duke study finding that people switch to other high calorie beverages when faced with a soda tax.
Similarly, a recent University of Illinois review suggests that taxes may work in controlled experiments—but won’t make a dent in the “real world” since people will simply buy other unhealthy items. And a Queens College study of restaurants showed no significant relationship between calorie intake and menu prices.
So, are taxes the solution? You tell us . . .