Jan 13 2012

The “You’re Fat” Tax Is Coming!

Okay my friends, I don’t want to be the “I told you” type but I did! The “you’re fat” tax is coming soon. So you ask, what in the world is a “fat tax”? I am glad you asked. As we all are aware, obesity is growing at an alarming rate. Most of us are already overweight and some of us are way overweight-yes face it we are obese. Come on, take a look at your waist line. Look down there now. You can see it as plain as day. Yes, say it with me, I am overweight. Good-that’s a start. You have tried dieting, exercising and nothing seems to work.  Well, our government seems to think that it is now up to our elected public officials to help correct an epidemic. How, you may ask? How does the government respond to issues that threaten public safety-by making new laws and regulations and yes, you know it, it’s on the tip of your tongue-yes, taxes! Of course, taxes-a penalty for this indiscretion. Only this time, the indiscretion is being overweight. As many friends of mine point out, when injuries and fatal accidents as a result of car crashes became major issues, wearing seatbelts was advised. However this advisory didn’t help. So the next step was a law and regulation that made it mandatory for everyone to buckle-up. And it’s working. How can we apply that to obesity? The “fat tax.” Taxing fattening and sugary foods is one way.  A new study by Columbia University professor Claire Wang, MD, ScD (published in the January 2012 issue of Health Affairs) suggests that by increasing the tax on sugary beverages by one penny per ounce, you can reduce the number of obese adults by 1.5 percent and decrease the number of cases of diabetes by 2.6 percent.  In actual population numbers, this would mean thousands less cases of diabetes and heart disease and billions of dollars savings in health care costs. Is it worth it? I think so. We need to do something to stop this increasing epidemic. It seems that we are not strong enough, not disciplined enough and certainly not willing enough to listen and understand the implications of how being overweight causes more heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.  So we need help. And a tax is the first step.  We have seen that taxing the tobacco industry has raised millions of dollars and that tax plus a major restriction on where you can smoke outside your homes has made a difference in the amount of smokers. So we start with a tax on sugary beverages. That’s easy-we can see the amount of sugar in a product and if it exceeds a specific amount-we can tax it. But what’s next on the target list? We know that BMI (Body Mass Index) is already being discussed as the next target. BMI is basically a weight and height measurement performed by your health care provider. This number separates us into ideal, over, under and obese categories. Also an easy number to target and tax. Over a certain BMI-say 30 and you get a tax. If we are nice, maybe you can get clemency for a first offense. On the other hand, a BMI of 35 and over will mean a higher tax. And then comes the repeat offenders-where do we go from there?

You can all see that there is no easy answer. But we do need to start somewhere. Our kids are getting fatter. We need to help them. We need to help ourselves. I have always believed in education-bring back the Home Economics courses and retool them for today’s e-generation. Teach cooking, dieting, and food safety to our kids and continue reinforcing this knowledge until they reach college. This will help. Provide alternative forms of exercise for our kids-like yoga, tai chi, dance, boxing and fencing. This will allow kids the option of individual performance sports as well as team sports. Let’s encourage our kids to exercise and find the particular sport they like.  This will help them maintain exercise and fitness as they grow into adults. Research shows us that most of our kids now drop exercise as they mature into their teen years.

My friends, obesity is a major problem and we need major solutions to fight it. Let me hear your thoughts-write to me at talk@nerdel.com.

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