The lifecycle of a speculative tax.
October 2nd 2011 (BBC):
Denmark has introduced what is believed to be the world’s first fat tax – a surcharge on foods that are high in saturated fat.
Butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food are now subject to the tax if they contain more than 2.3% saturated fat.
October 2nd, 2011 ( National Obesity Forum)
Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: “It is not a question of whether we should follow the Danes’ lead – we have to. If we don’t do anything about it, by 2050, 70% of the British population will be obese or overweight and that would result not only in the downfall of the NHS but also of our national workforce.”
October 4th 2011 (Guardian):
Danish consumers have criticised the move, which has left many retailers complaining of excessive bureaucracy.
Cameron said the introduction of a similar idea in the UK should not be ruled out.
“I think it is something that we should look at,” he told 5 News during a round of broadcast interviews at the Tory conference in Manchester. “The problem in the past when people have looked at using the tax system in this way is the impact it can have on people on low incomes.
“Don’t rule anything out, but let’s look at the evidence and let’s look at the impact on families,” he added.
October 23rd 2011 (New Scientist):
THE Danish government’s now infamous “fat tax” has caused an international uproar, applauded by public health advocates on the one hand and dismissed on the other as nanny-state social engineering gone berserk.
Denmark has long used the tax system to achieve health goals. It has taxed candy for nearly 90 years, and was the first country to ban trans-fats in 2003.
Obesity rates may be low by US standards, but they used to be lower – 9.5 per cent in 2000. Life expectancy in Denmark is 79 years, at least two years below that in Japan or Iceland. The stated goal of the tax policies is to increase life expectancy as well as to reduce the burden and cost of illness from diet-related diseases.
Let us congratulate Denmark on what could be viewed as a revolutionary experiment. I can’t wait to see the results.
Aside: Did that Candy Tax from the 1920s work? Let’s compare some similar countries.
Life Expectancy at Birth (Wikipedia, UN Figures for 2005-2010): (*)
Channel Islands 79.0
November 10th 2012 (BBC):
The Danish government has said it intends to abolish a tax on foods which are high in saturated fats.
The measure, introduced a little over a year ago, was believed to be the world’s first so-called “fat tax”.
Foods containing more than 2.3% saturated fat – including dairy produce, meat and processed foods – were subject to the surcharge.
November 10th, 2012: (Metro):
Authorities have now said that the tax has had adverse effects on the economy, inflating food charges and putting Danish jobs at risk.
It also saw some Danes cross the border into Germany in order to stock up on cheaper goods there.
A number of supermarkets have said that once that tax has been abolished, they will cut their prices.
That damned reality thing. It always interferes with the best designed plans of sociologists, medics and politicians.
How long before the next one comes along?
And I wonder what the whole exercise cost?
Perhaps they should have spent it on exercise bicycles?.
(*) Strictly, this is stats-mangling, since there may be an effect not detectable on overall trends, but it makes the point.
Photo Source: Welcome to My Copenhagen.