As Americans file their last minute tax returns, Canadians are bracing themselves for a new levy on burgers and fries. Bureaucrats north of the border are gearing up to supersize government coffers by downsizing the bank accounts of restaurant customers. Next month, Ontario legislators plan to slap an eight percent sales tax on restaurant meals cheaper than four dollars. As usual, tax advocates cite “childhood obesity” to help citizens stomach this latest assault on their wallets — although Ontario’s $5.6 billion budget deficit is a more likely culprit. Aside from “penalizing those who can least afford it,” this latest food tax scheme won’t make Canadians any thinner.
A study published this month in the American Medical Association’s Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that “insufficient vigorous physical activity was the only risk factor” for overweight boys and girls. And overweight children consumed “fewer total calories than the normal-weight group.” You read that right. Kids who ate less were fatter than the kids who ate more. Why? Because they were also more sedentary.
In March, the journal Obesity Research published analysis that identified “no statistically significant relationship between the percentage of calories from ice cream, baked goods, candy or chips and BMI (Body Mass Index) score” in adolescent girls. According to the researchers, these “energy dense snack foods” had no bearing on “weight status or fatness change over the adolescent period.” The key to weight management, it seems, is still monitoring calories-in versus calories-out.
Despite the best efforts of food police and trial lawyers, the American public seems to grasp this basic concept. A recent Wall Street Journal/Harris Poll found that 83 percent of Americans think the reason for an increased rate of obesity is: “People do not exercise enough.” Eating “too much fast food” and consuming “too many calories” failed to even crack the 40 percent barrier.
Sue Cox, who heads Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank, notes that a fat tax will only hurt the underprivileged: “Poor people already have enough on their plate without adding another thing.”Of course, the economically disadvantaged in the United States could also become a casualty of the crusade against “convenient, accessible, good-tasting” food. Kelly Brownell, father of the fat tax, advocates “large snack taxes (in the range of 5 and 10 percent)” in his Big Brother manifesto.