Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ontario's Doctors: Junk Food Tax Still Makes Sense

TORONTO, Ontario February 20, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - Following a speech today by Jens Klarskov, CEO of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, the OMA renewed its call for increased taxes on junk foods and drinks, and for decreased taxes on healthier items.

In the Fall of 2012, the OMA outlined several recommendations to combat obesity which included putting health warnings on high calorie - low nutrition foods, restricting advertising to children and reducing junk foods in kids' sports and recreation facilities. Since that time the OMA has been working with government, food and restaurant industry representatives to try to find collaborative ways to improve healthier food policies.

The OMA recommended revisiting how foods are taxed because price increases through taxation are proven to have a significant impact on demand, and Ontario's Doctors believe this will help the obesity epidemic. Some criticism of health-based taxing mechanisms, by the junk food industry and taxpayers' groups, do not tell the whole story.

Every day Ontario's Doctors see the physical and mental health effects of obesity on our patients. It would help our patients and the health care system if the healthiest food was also the most affordable.

We hope to make healthier eating easier for all Ontarians - including lower-income families. We want to level the price playing field for healthier foods because it will pay significant health dividends. - Dr. Doug Weir, President, Ontario Medical Association

The failed Danish "fat tax" often cited as evidence that an obesity prevention tax won't work, was focused on saturated fat content in foods, not directly on obesity prevention. It was in fact successful at reducing demand and purchase volumes of these products in Denmark, confirming the OMA position that price plays a part. It was not politically sustainable and lessons can be learned from Denmark's experience.

There are many examples of more successful obesity-related taxes though, that target sugar and calories. Denmark itself still has in place an excise tax on pop, candy, ice cream and some other sugar-laden foods. Finland, Hungary, Norway and France have all increased taxes on high calorie junk foods. Like Ontario's Doctors, these policy makers were concerned that junk food was cheaper than healthier alternatives. There are many progressive tax policies that our governments can follow to improve health.

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