Intake of Junk Food and Unhealthy Foods by Americans Can Be Diminished by Government Policy

There is a growing concern about the rate of the intake of junk food and other unhealthy foods by Americans. Kersh and Morone state that the adverse implications of the high rate of the consumption of junk food and other unhealthy foods by Americans have presented the need for the government to neglect the myths concerning individualism and self-reliance. Instead, the U.S. government has taken an initiative to control ostensibly private behavior of Americans. The government has the responsibility for insuring that its citizens are healthy and capable of taking part in nation building. The implications of the consumption of junk food and other unhealthy foods has increased the rate of obesity and other health complications, thereby triggering governmental intervention in citizens’ private habits.

Should the Government Control What We Eat?

Powell and Chaloupka state that childhood obesity is the main threat to Americans’ public health in the 21st century. The consequences of childhood obesity are realized at a later stage, when children become overweight and obese adults. Apparently, the situation increases the population’s susceptibility to chronic complications like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. In fact, it is rather dangerous since the diseases are categorized among the top threats to national health and economic development. The challenge encountered is compounded by numerous advertisements that influence Americans’ preference for junk food and other unhealthy foods. The trends that have been observed with respect to Americans’ health complications as a result of their eating habits have prompted advocacy of the establishment of limitations on advertisements of junk food. The support for this idea is based on the reasoning that the establishment and implementation of policies that encourage healthy eating habits is appropriate to have a healthy American population. Therefore, this discussion seeks to justify the claim that the intake of junk food and unhealthy foods by Americans can be reduced by government policy.

Grounds of Argument

The Journal of American Medicine shows that more than one-third of the adult population of the Unites States and 17 % of youths are obese. The cases of obesity in the US result from individual eating habits starting from childhood and continuing to adulthood. The high rate of obesity in the United States places a great strain on the government that is determined to offer the best health care for its citizens. The reason is in the high rates of the estimated annual medical costs that the government has to meet. The annual cost is estimated at $147 billion, and the government has spent more of its medical expenditures in response to obesity. The situation is also worsened by people’s economic status due to the fact that the affected population finds it easier to acquire unhealthy foods like junk food that are relatively cheaper than healthy food. According to Finkelstein et al., the increased cases of obesity in the society present a great threat to the government and the population. The reason is that obesity is the cause of the increasing cases of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. The health complications are identified to be among the main causes of death; however, they can be prevented by implementing viable policies to regulate people’s eating habits.

The HBO documentary series The Weight of Nation shows that one out of five children consumes three or more sugary drinks per day, which can be considered an extra meal. Consequently, the situation prompted the US government to formulate policies that can limit the rate of consumption of junk food and other unhealthy foods. A new study that was published in the British Medical Journal suggests that the tax addition on unhealthy food and the introduction of a ban on soft drinks can help slow the alarming rates of obesity and lower the rate of consumption of junk and unhealthy food. Thus, increasing the tax on unhealthy food is an initiative aimed at making the cost of such foods higher so that people are discouraged from consuming them.

Warrants and Backing

The government has the responsibility for promoting a healthy population. It involves identifying the threats to the citizens’ health and formulating policies to help curb such threats. As discussed earlier, obesity is a matter of public concern in the United States. Apparently, the government has to take measures to save current and future generations from the scourge that mainly results from people’s poor eating habits. To achieve the objective of public health while improving people’s diet and limiting the cases of obesity, the government has to impose the fat tax and policy on unhealthy food. In fact, the move received different reactions with some people viewing it as an intrusion into people’s individual lifestyles. On the other hand, there was much support from those that understood the implications that obesity has on US economy. Poor eating habits lead to obesity that, in turn, cause several cases of premature death, cancer, high blood cholesterol, depression and hypertension among other diseases.
After the formulation of the fat tax and policy on unhealthy food, it is necessary for the government to strengthen the policies so as to diminish the problem of obesity. Apparently, several questions have been asked about the effectiveness of food taxes and subsidies aimed at reducing obesity that is considered a public health crisis.

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People’s attention to the food pricing policies increased as it became evident that the price of a calorie is substantially cheaper when obtained from unhealthy energy-dense foods as opposed to those from healthy less-dense foods. Therefore, it is prudent to emphasize the idea of implementing pricing policies to control the problem of obesity as the prices of unhealthy and energy-dense foods have raised with an increase in the production cost, while the price of healthy and less-dense foods are subsidized to make them more affordable. Thus, strengthening the fat tax on unhealthy food will effectively change people’s consumption patterns to a more healthy diet and help to insure a healthier weight outcome. According to Fox et al. (86), Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables but take much dietary fat and sugar. Moreover, the population’s consumption of micronutrients does not meet the dietary recommendations. Hereby, it is evident that there is a close connection between excessive consumption of sugar-rich foods, soft drinks, fats and fast foods and obesity.

Strengthening the fat tax on unhealthy food can aid in decreasing customers’ consumption rate and increasing suppliers production cost. In the US, food taxes are mainly imposed on food categories like snacks, soft drinks and candy. Moreover, this is also the case in Canada where general sales taxes are imposed. Thus, value-added taxes are imposed on particular products like snacks, soft drinks and confections in other European countries. Imposing a tax on the specific food is targeted at shaping people’s eating habits. In fact, the taxes are meant to insure that the consumption of food with high sugar content is discouraged. Apparently, the foods that are linked with obesity are known to be harmful to American economic development. The reason is that the reduction in prices leads to a corresponding trend of people growing fatter. The problem is that whenever people are able to purchase junk food at a cheap price, their do not take much time investigating the negative implications of their purchasing and consumption habits. People are more likely to respond to the increase in the prices of junk food than they can react to nutritional education. Hereby, strengthening the fat tax is helpful in safeguarding the healthy population from the effect of junk food and other unhealthy foods.

Imposing the fat tax and other policies that discourage the consumption of junk food and other unhealthy foods can help the government insure that people implement healthier eating behavior. In fact, the adoption of healthy eating behavior helps to reduce the financial burden that the government faces as it meets the medical expenditure of its citizens. As the population is informed and starts consuming healthy food, the government will spend less money on making health care services available to its population. The reason is that cases of obesity will be highly reduced. Consequently, the money that the government would spend on handling patients suffering from obesity can be used to provide other essential services like education to citizens. In the long run, the fat tax helps to facilitate economic development.

Heshmat (73) supports the notion that it is vital to subsidize the cost of healthy foods and vegetables to make them more affordable to a greater number of people. In fact, the government of the United State subsidizes food for low-income earners through a number of programs. The programs include the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, Food Stamps and the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. Thus, the government needs to maintain the subsidies and improve them to insure that the population eats healthy food. Moreover, the subsidies are essential in insuring that low-income earners are not adversely affected by the fat tax that increases the prices of junk food. In fact, they enable people to acquire healthy food at a relatively low price than if the subsidies were withdrawn.

Cutler, Glaeser and Shapiro (115) suggest that the government should place a tax of at least 20 percent on sugar-sweetened drinks to drop obesity rate and prevent heart-related deaths. The decision to control people’s level of consumption of unhealthy food and drinks is justified in situations when the market fails to provide goods that are tested and confirmed to be safe for the society’s well-being. Thus, it is necessary for the government to compel the producers and advertisers to investigate and inform consumers about the relationship between their diet and diseases. The problem is that some producers and advertisers fail to show concern about consumers’ health because they have a desire to serve their personal interest of making a profit at the expense of the society’s long-term well-being. Hereby, sensitive production and advertisements should be based on ethics. Therefore, producers and advertisers should always show that they are willing and determined to take responsibility of the health and social costs of the consumption of their products. Moreover, willingness to shoulder the consequences of the consumption requires producers of food staff and beverages to be clear about the ingredients used to produce the food and drinks. The information should be included in the advertisements to enable consumers to make informed choices. After failing to do this, producers of junk food and other unhealthy foods have failed to show concern about the future of America. Therefore, the government has to intervene to save its people from avoidable diseases and deaths.

As the fat tax helps the government to regulate the consumption of junk food and other unhealthy foods, the ban on sugar-sweetened soft drinks can also help to reduce cases of obesity by regulating the rate of the consumption of sweetened drinks. Apparently, the consumption of sweetened drinks gradually became a public health policy issue. The reason is that similar to the junk food, sugar-sweetened soft drinks are perceived to have major contributions to Americans’ obesity and its related health complications. Thus, the ban or reduction in the rate of the consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks is a government policy that was aimed at reducing the increasing cases of obesity among children. In fact, the measure that the government took to ban soft drinks replicates the efforts that had been taken in Britain and France. Similar to the situation in the US, the countries banned soft drinks in schools (Heshmat 74).

Several states in the US have implemented the ban by effecting statewide bans or imposed rules to limit the sale of soft drinks in schools. Apparently, the focus on the ban of soft drinks was conditioned by people’s habits. The reason is that people fail to compensate for additional energy that they obtain from soft drinks. Instead, they increase their exposure to obesity by consuming more sugar and total energy. The ban on sweetened drinks provoked mixed reactions. On the one hand, it affected the business of the retailers of soft drinks and most city residents. On the other hand, the ban was highly welcomed by health professionals who were aware of the implications of the excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

Based on the ban, all retailers are prohibited from dispensing sugared beverages like sodas and sweetened tea in containers larger than 16 oz (Cutler, Glaeser, and Shapiro 112). However, this ban is not applicable to fruit juices, diary-based drinks like milkshakes and alcoholic beverages. The criticism that was raised against the soft drinks ban was based on the idea that sugared sodas are not the only cause of obesity. Critics argued that obesity has a wide range of causes like other sources of sugar that include candy and other sweets. Despite the criticism, the decision that was taken by the city’s Health Board was implemented. The reason is that it was identified as an effective way to help consumers limit their level of consumption of calories and change their diet in general. Powell and Chaloupka state that the city’s Health Board noted that sugary drinks constitute 43% of the average sugar that is added in American diet. Therefore, the more sodas people drink, the more they are exposed to the risk of obesity that claims many lives in the US. It follows that the long-term benefits of the soft drinks ban outweigh the perceived challenges. Thus, the ban helps the government in keeping its citizens healthy, reducing its expenditures in health care provision and increasing its financial allocation to other essential services.

Modal Qualifiers

From the discussion above, it is clear that intensifying the ban against sugar-sweetened beverages and strengthening the fat tax can help reduce the consumption of junk food. In fact, the initiative should be taken even if it may not completely solve the problem of obesity in the United States. The cost of maintaining a healthy population is largely affecting the economy of the United States. However, the policies that are targeted at reducing the burden on the government should not be based on a desire to have a total end to obesity. The reason is that any level of success will help the government focus on other developmental agenda, as some finances that would be used to treat obesity patients will be saved. People’s rate of consuming sugar-sweetened soft drinks also exposes them to high risks of becoming obese. The ban on sugar-sweetened soft drinks should be strengthened, especially with regard to children, to promote a future healthy population.

To effectively implement the fat tax, it is essential to specify the food and beverage products that the tax targets. It is crucial to carefully select foods on which the ban is to be imposed to avoid adverse implications that can cause the economy. It is a well-known fact that poor people spend a great proportion of their income on food. Thus, it is possible for a fat tax to be regressive. The problem can be curbed by taxing foods that have a lot of calories without adequate nutritional values. The reason is that people can get calories from other sources included in the diet. The government also makes the fat tax less expensive to the poor by subsidizing healthy foods and providing health education.


The criticism that is raised to counter the policy that requires the fat tax and sugar-sweetened soft drinks ban is based on the idea that many people are likely to ignore the fat tax and subsidies for healthy food. The reasoning is based on the understanding that there are people who will not be affected by the increase in the price of junk food. Consequently, they are likely to ignore healthy foods, prices of which are subsidized by the government as they opt to buy expensive junk food. Critics reason that the fat tax can only influence the eating habits of low-income earners because of their sensitivity to changes in price. Thus, this argument shows that high-income earners cannot change their buying habits because of changes in price; hence, they are likely to continue buying junk and unhealthy food despite the increase in price.

Some people also argue that the fat tax and the ban on sugar-sweetened soft drinks are unfair to the food industry and that they would create joblessness among the population. Retailers of junk food and sugar-sweetened beverages are likely to be left jobless when consumers of such foods and drinks are discouraged from purchasing them. Additionally, the criticism is based on the idea that it would be difficult to define unhealthy food because not all high-fat foods are considered as unhealthy and junk food. Thus, it would be challenging for government to label them before strengthening the tax and policy. Furthermore, other people are opposed to the fat tax and the ban based on the notion that they can violate people’s personal freedom of choice.


The discussion confirms the fact that the intake of junk food and unhealthy foods by Americans can be diminished by a government policy. The implementation of a fat tax and sugar-sweetened soft drinks ban can help secure US population from the problem of obesity and its related medical complications. People should be encouraged to change their eating habits by adding healthy food in their diets. To regulate the consumption of junk food and other unhealthy foods, American government must strengthen the fat tax and ban on sugar-sweetened drinks. Critics of the policies emphasize that there are other causes of obesity apart from the ones targeted by the tax and the ban. The arguments are also based on the idea that the ban on sugar-sweetened soft drinks can have negative implications on vendors of such drinks. However, the move to impose the fat tax and the ban on sugar-sweetened soft drinks is justified by the long- term benefits of the policy.

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