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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 8/17/2003

You want tax with that?

Americans are too fat. So tell us something we don't know, right?

How about this: The people who make laws are looking to slap a tax on fast food to encourage us to eat less of it.

Certainly the fast-food industry is an easy and deserving target. If all the excess weight carried around by Americans were shed at the same moment, the earth might be thrown off its axis, and Big Macs and Whoppers would rightly get their share of the blame.

Home-cooked meals are increasingly rare in many households, and ordering fast food or eating processed or pre-packaged meals has unfortunately become a way of life.

But we have to wonder about the peculiar idea of a state assemblyman from New York. Legislator Felix Ortiz wants to tax fast food, movie tickets, DVD rentals, and video games. His point is to discourage Americans from sitting on their duffs by taxing entertainment.

It could be argued that such a tax is not unlike increased taxes on cigarettes, which are intended at least in part to discourage smoking.

But there's a key difference. Smoking endangers not only the smoker's health but the health of others nearby. Indulging in a double-decker cheeseburger and a super-sized box of French fries clogs nobody's arteries but the indulger's.

There are better solutions than a tax. Many schools are replacing fries and burgers on lunch menus with more healthful options. Candy and sugary beverages also have no place in school and ought to be eliminated from vending machines there.

Across the land state legislators are looking for ways to combat the girth of their constituents. Lawmakers have filed 140 bills this year alone. Some of them commission studies while others focus on physical education in schools.

But it comes down to human behavior. People will eat what they want, and cramming a tax down their throats won't discourage them from doing the same with a quarter-pounder.



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