Healthy-Living Vouchers -- by Eugene Reimer 2011-Jan-28

A guest on CBC-Newsworld's Power and Politics 2011-01-28 advocates the introduction of "Healthy-Living Vouchers" as a way for our government to reward those who make healthy food choices.  This strikes me as a worthy objective, but as the wrong way to go about trying to achieve it.  In a time of deficit problems we do not need new ways for our government to spend money, we need new ways for it to raise revenue, ergo what's needed is a "Sin Tax" applied to unhealthy food choices.

We already have a Sin-tax on alcohol and tobacco products, so the concept is not new.  By applying a Salt-tax, Sugar-tax, Fat-tax, and White-flour-tax to food products we would get the behaviour-change we seek and increase tax-revenue at the same time.  The Fat-tax would have different rates for different types of fat, based on how sinful each type is;  similarly different kinds of sugar would have different rates depending on how sinful each type is.

Three ways to go about modifying people's food choices:
(A) Healthy-living vouchers;
(B) Unhealthy-living tax;
(C) A revenue-neutral combination of the above;

Personally I vote for plan-B.  Those opposed to new taxes will prefer plan-C, and were we in a balanced-budget era then I could live with it too, however we are not in such an era.  Furthermore, a single measure is simpler and thus less costly to implement than a combination of two measures, and that makes plan-B the clear winner.

Because most prepared foods that are sweet are much too sweet for my taste I'm tempted to advocate for a Sweetness-tax instead of a Sugar-tax, so that sweeteners other than sugar will also be used in moderation, however a Sin-tax will only tax an artificial-sweetener if known to be unhealthy.  (The sensible approach is to treat a new artificial-sweetener as unhealthy until we know otherwise.)

PS: I remain a fan of Stephan Dion and his Carbon-tax proposal.  It is clearly the correct way to get the behaviour-change that is badly needed.

PS: Other Sin-taxes needed:  we need to end the "war on drugs", legalize them, tax them;  we need to decriminalize prostitution then tax it in government-run brothels;  thereby eliminating expenses and increasing revenue.  Much as we have done for gambling and alcohol.