Just when the cigarette tax seemed as bad as it could get, some consider a fast food tax to control obesity.
WASHINGTON – While the IRS is trying to give money back to only one of many groups possibly in need of tax relief, other government leaders are trying to instill a hefty tax on all fast foods and unhealthy snacks.
The IRS recently announced that obesity is a "disease" effecting approximately 54 million U.S. adults, who should now be eligible for tax deductions on weight loss programs and medical expenses. This decision came after several groups, such as the American Obesity Association and Weight Watchers, urged their members to petition legislators in support of financial assistance.
Taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist who heads Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in Washington, called the IRS announcement a matter of overtaxation.
"The obvious problem here is that taxes have become so out of control that Americans are scrambling to place themselves in categories that will exempt them from the financial pressure of excessive taxation," said Norquist. "If the obese can get tax reductions, perhaps all dieters should – as well as compulsive gamblers, anxiety sufferers, and alcoholics – just to name a few."
Complicating the issue of obesity even more, some state legislators such as Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Calif.) have taken it upon themselves to decide that raising taxes on fast food, unhealthy snacks, and soft drinks will reduce consumption among youth in order to help control obesity. Other states are eliminating sales tax exemptions on such foods.
Norquist, a critic of such tax hikes, said the state senator\’s measure would "amount to one of the greatest tax increases on the poor in the history of America, as the poor consume a higher proportion of these types of foodstuffs in comparison to their incomes, as compared to wealthier Americans."
A few years ago, Yale psychologist Kelley Brownell called for a "Twinkie Tax" on unhealthy food and regulation of "junk food" advertising while NYU nutritionist Marion Nestle recently accused the food industry of producing too much food, that is too good and too inexpensive, too efficiently, causing the epidemic of obesity.
"Perhaps we should give the people behind this food industry a tax redemption for their disease of compulsively making successful products," concluded Norquist.