Should there be a tax on junk food but subsidies on healthy food?

The tobacco industry claims that the purchase of cigarettes has fallen worldwide since heavy taxation and advertising restrictions have been implemented. The idea of taxing junk food in the same way as tobacco and subsidizing healthy food is a combination that could guide people to choosing healthier food (which will be cheaper after subsidizing) instead of the poisonous junk food (which today is way cheaper than healthy food but will be more expensive after taxation). In the long run, billions spent on healthcare due to the outcome of an unhealthy diet can be put to better use.

couple eating healthy food

Should the government subsidize healthy food…
photo by Ambro

Those who oppose this idea claim that the government and the food companies are two different entities. Adjusting food prices will interfere with the free market and create a false economy. In fact the term “junk food” lacks a consensus on its definition. Some perceive junk food as anything that is processed, others define junk food as food that has certain sugar content or that contains preservatives. Same goes for how people define healthy food; is being organic good enough or does diet soda also fit the category?

Youngsters eating junk food

… and tax Junk food?
photo by Ambro

Update:

2 thoughts on “Should there be a tax on junk food but subsidies on healthy food?

  1. The current subsidy system is a joke. It subsidizes tobacco, meat from farms with crappy hygiene and living conditions for the animals, and corn which is found in almost all our products especially processed food, genetically modified food etc. The farmers have no control of their food. Those who try to keep control get shut down. I believe that there should be a subsidy system for real farmer products all over America and the giants of the food industry need to give back the farms back to the farmers and stop oppressing them.

  2. One could make the argument that the healthiest foods are already subsidized. Raw produce is tax-free and often is subsidized at the farmer’s end so as to keep the price lower for the general population. I realize there are still other issues with this, but arguably the subsidy for healthy foods is already there.

    (I make a game out of it, I try to make my grocery bill have zero tax on it and grin the whole way out to the car!)

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