The panel concludes in a 79 page report that “the price of food has a proven impact on weight, and economic sticks and carrots should be invoked to combat the growing weight crisis”.
“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.”
The new report takes a diverse look at how to address the economic aspect of obesity, while other health groups and experts are debating on advocating a tax on soda pop. Long working hours, sedentary lifestyle and jobs, and higher wages has made ‘physical activity more expensive’.
“Standard economic theory predicts that these price changes would rationally lead individuals to increase caloric intake and reduce caloric expenditure,” says the report, presented this week at the Canadian Cardiovascular Society conference in Montreal.
Just 2.5 % of the Canadians’ caloric intake accounts as sugared pop, according to a 2004 federal survey. For this very reason, the head of the soft-drinks industry association wasn’t compliant to the soda-tax idea arguing that it only represents a small percentage of the problem.
The Heart and Stroke report acknowledges the evidence shows only a “modest” impact on weight as a result of boosting soft-drink prices, but suggested that a real effect requires more substantial tax hikes than have been tried in some jurisdictions. Prof. Faulkner pointed to tobacco, where the majority of the cost of cigarettes now is made up by levies, and evidence suggests that price hikes have helped curb smoking rates.
A reasonable soft-drink tax would probably be about 10 cents per ounce of sweetener, he said, likely boosting the price of a can of pop by about 15 cents.
There is better evidence that eating more fruits and vegetables actually translates into lower weight according to Prof. Faulkner.