Could ‘red meat’ be next on the list of sin taxes?

Posted on Friday, November 9, 2018 by Jessica Salerno

Taxes on alcohol and tobacco are nothing new, but a new study is looking at the supposedly beneficial impact a tax on meat could have on healthcare.

Adele Peters of Fast Company writes, “The study, which looked at the impacts of taxing red and processed meat, calculated that a tax could prevent more than 220,000 deaths globally in a year, and save more than $40 billion in health care costs.”

To get those numbers, the article says researchers estimated how much red meat affects the risks of different diseases and how much those diseases cost to treat, and then calculated the impact of each additional portion of meat. Then they calculated an optimal tax that could help account for those health costs. In America, where people eat more meat than the global average and spend more on health care, the tax could increase the cost of red meat by 160%. That might make you think twice before picking up your next steak dinner.

Although this proposal might sound farfetched, consider how other items, such as sugary drinks, have been taxed in recent years.

And sin taxes have been shown to work, according to The Economist: “…in general, a 1% increase in the price of tobacco or alcohol in America leads to a 0.5% decline in sales. In practical terms, this means that sales of tobacco and alcohol are more responsive overall to price changes than say, sales of many common household goods, such as coffee.”

This isn’t the first time a tax like this has been suggested, but history shows it needs to be done in the right way to work. The article says that in Denmark, they had to withdraw a tax on saturated fat because of the backlash.

What do you think of a future red meat tax? Let us know in the comments.

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