Does Canada Need An Obesity Tax?

obesity tax - fat man's belly

An expert panel commissioned by the Heart and Stroke Foundation is recommending that Canadian governments should place a tax on sugared soft drinks, subsidize fruit and vegetable consumption for low income groups and give farmers financial incentives to grow more fresh produce.

According to the report, the price of food has a proven impact on weight, and economic sticks and carrots should be invoked to combat the growing weight crisis.

And yet, according to the lead author of the study, the soda-tax and other proposals do not represent nanny-state intervention into diet and behaviour.

“We’re not banning these items. It is trying to signal to the consumer that you should try to consume less of it,” said Guy Faulkner, a University of Toronto professor of health and exercise psychology. “If we think that obesity is a serious public-health issue … then ultimately economic measures will have to be part of the arsenal.”


Note – The report has not been released as of the publication of this article.

Douglas Robb

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, and a student of nutrition and exercise science. He's also the co-founder of the Hive Health Media. Since 2008, Doug has expanded his impact by bringing his real-world experience online via the health & fitness blog – Health Habits.

9 thoughts on “Does Canada Need An Obesity Tax?

  • October 28, 2010 at 8:16 am

    This issue causes me a lot of internal angst.

    I am an odd kind of libertarian.

    In Canada, my access to healthcare is affected by the relative health of my neighbors. If they get sick a lot, the healthcare system has to spend more bringing them back to health.

    Therefore, it is in my best interest if i can help other Canadians stay healthy and avoid crippling the system with unnecessary “lifestyle related” healthcare disease.

    My own personal contribution is my blog Health Habits.

    Hopefully, some of my countrymen & women can learn how to live a healthy lifestyle via my little blog.

    But, seeing as Google Analytics keeps telling me that not all of Canada’s 30 million people are reading Health Habits, I realize that I am not the solution to Canada’s healthcare woes.

    This is where I start thinking about the benefits of campaigns to help promote health.

    And that includes taxes

    So far, Canada has been providing health & fitness information as a means to promote healthy lifestyles.

    At this point, I think everyone knows that broccoli is better than twinkies and that going for a brisk walk is better than watching tv all night.

    What I think we need is to apply a massive dose of peer pressure to encourage healthy behavior.

    Pay the most influential celebrities to shoot PSAs about keeping fit.

    Bombard us with tv, web, radio & print ads.

    We are addicted to celebrities as it is…we might as well put our own collective shallowness to good use.

    And maybe, a tax on the junkiest of junk food could pay for those PSAs?

    Any thoughts?

    • November 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm

      Hey Doug, that’s not an entirely bad idea at all. In Canada, there are substantial sin taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, why not slap a sin tax on the Baconator or Double Down, or seriously unhealthy food?

      • November 9, 2010 at 6:14 am

        That idea became talk show fodder here in Ontario. The provincial minister for health promotion was asked if the gov’t would consider banning / taxing the DD and she responded with one of those “we’re looking into it” non-answer answers.

        Of course, to the media, this meant that they were considering it.

        And this set off all the radio/tv pundits.

        It’s funny, while I personally think that having the gov’t tax junk food would turn out to be ineffective at best, I still find it funny that as Canadians, we put up with a LOT of gov’t intrusion into our lives, but it takes just a mention of a tax on junk food to get the general public all riled up.

        • November 9, 2010 at 11:17 am

          I agree with you that it sounds like a typical completely non-committal response regarding the question about the Double Down.

          I think a tax on junk food would be incredibly unpopular, but it could be effective. People typically eat junk food because it’s super cheap, very convenient, tastes good with some exceptions, and is loaded with fat, sugar, or both. Since you can’t change people’s tastes or the fact that it’s convenient to eat, increasing its cost is really the only aspect that can be changed.

  • October 28, 2010 at 6:55 am

    I’m on the fence with this. I agree with Dan’s comment, but I also believe that the obesity epidemic is not going to be solved unless we as a society take a drastic measure. I don’t think we need the ‘proof’ of how costly & deadly this epidemic is.
    Something has to be done, but nothing is being done effectively. Society continues to choose the all mighty dollar over their own health.
    Yes, Canada and the US!

  • October 27, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Haha, I had to laugh when I read the blog post’s title. They can put their prices up if they want but someone who craves this kind of food is going to keep buying it. They did it with alcohol and that did not have too much of an effect as far as I know.

  • October 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Hell NO!!!! Because who is going to decide what gets taxed. The powers that be. That means meats, butter etc could all be targeted. And what right does someone have to tell you what to eat even if they do manage to get it right.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *