Why fat taxes won't make us thin

J Public Health (Oxf). 2015 Mar;37(1):18-23. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdu032. Epub 2014 May 22.


Increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity has led policy-makers to consider health-related taxes to limit the consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages. Such taxes are currently already in place in countries in Europe (e.g. Hungary, France and Finland) and in various states in the USA. Although these taxes are possibly efficient in reducing by a small amount the consumption of targeted products if the tax is fully transmitted to the consumer, there is too little available evidence on what will be consumed instead and whether these food substitutions undermine the hoped-for health benefits of the tax. We also know very little on how the food supply side will respond and what overall impact this will have. Without a proper appreciation of the potential indirect impacts we do not know the overall impact of taxes foods on unhealthy foods and beverages and further that there is a very real possibility that they may not be beneficial for health after all.

Keywords: economics; food and nutrition; obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Promotion / economics*
  • Health Promotion / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Food / economics*
  • Overweight / economics*
  • Overweight / prevention & control*
  • Taxes / economics*
  • Taxes / legislation & jurisprudence*