Health

India Needs To Impose A 'Fat Tax'

| by Shani Shahmoon

As a kid, I envied my peers whose lunches consisted of factory-made Lunchables and Fruit Roll-Ups -- which should not be mistaken for the less-processed and brownish "fruit leathers" that actually taste like dried strawberries and are less than six inches long. But as I grew older and more conscious of my health, I spent time in elementary school classrooms as a shadow and cringed at the number of 6- and 7-year-olds whose lunches were leftover pizza and packaged mini muffins.

Governments are essentially no different than the guardians who pack those all-too-tempting, but far-from-nutritious, lunches for their kids. As India makes its way down the path toward an obesity crisis, it is essential that India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, sign on to pass the fat tax put on unhealthy foods.

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The Times of India reported that in 2015, over 60 million cases of diabetes were diagnosed in the country. And while the obesity rate in children in India is low, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the same study suggests that this rate is increasing faster than all other developing countries.

A proactive approach is better than a reactive one, as America's situation is proof of that.

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Since 2015, talk about imposing a tax on junk food has been floating around India's cities and officials, Rueters reports.

As such, discussions have been held regarding food labeling, advertising guidelines, and even taxing items that don’t meet the health criteria.

Sounds like sugar is the new cigarettes. Likewise, diabetes is the new lung cancer.

Don't hold your breath, for this realization has spread like smoke to other countries and researchers curious about taxes their implications on health.

Australia, in particular, has caught on, and studies from there have been released, estimating the implication of a fat tax on their healthcare system, and longevity of life of Australians, Science Daily reports.

In February, PLOS Medicine released a study by Linda Cobiac from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and her colleagues.

"Overall, when combined to maximize benefits, the taxes [on unhealthy foods] and subsidies [on healthy foods] could save an estimated 470,000 DALYs (disability-adjusted life year) and reduce spending by USD $2.3 billion [in healthcare costs]," the study reported.

India seems to already have the support of major tourist states such as Nadu and Kerala, Investopedia reports.

The two are already boycotting Pepsi Company and Coca-Cola Company for exploiting groundwater resources, as well as for health concerns, and in turn promoting locally made beverages.

Recipes for the same company's items differ worldwide, and India has been getting the short end of the stick.

Fanta, the second-most popular Coca-Cola-made item outside of America, is made with nearly 12 teaspoons of sugar in India, while Ireland, Argentina and the United Kingdom gets the same drink -- only it's made with only six teaspoons of sugar.

At this rate, by 2020, a WHO study estimates that India will be the largest sugar-consuming nation on Earth.

Obese Americans are still packing irreversibly unhealthy lunches for their kids, with no end in sight.

Unless India wants to step into that cycle, it must break away from the junk food path.

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Sources: Investopedia (2), PLOS Medicine, Reuters, Times of India, Science Daily / Photo credit: Killer Coke Organization

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