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'Twinkie Tax' Proposed to Curb American Obesity

The following article was taken from the Research Institute of America's TAXBASE --- a daily summary of tax related information which serves America's tax practitioners. It is a serious news source which is part of the Thompson Newspaper empire, not a joke:


Among the 16 "smart ideas" offered by U.S. News & World Report "to fix the world" is Number 7, a proposal for a "twinkie tax" as a cure for the "fattest people" on Earth. Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University's Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, says slapping high fat, low nutrition foods with a substantial sin tax is one step society hasn't tried.

Brownell sees a system that would involve devising a calorie-to- nutrient index, with low calorie, vitamin-stocked fruits and vegetables on one end of the spectrum and fat-drenched, low nutrient fast foods at the other. The scale would not be based on a simple measure of fat (a necessary nutrient) but on a more complex analysis of nutrients per calorie.

The higher up the scale any given food item was, the higher the tax on it would be. Foods with low calorie-to-nutrient ratios would pay no tax at all and might even be subsidized in some way to make them cheaper to buy. Brownell acknowledges that the plan might seem odd, but he says that 30 years ago the idea of raising cigarette taxes to recover health costs would have seemed far-fetched.

U.S. News & World Report: Shaheena Ahmad, 12-29-97/1-5-98, p. 62.