Let’s tax junk food to fund health care

Universal health care, as it is provided now in Canada, is unsustainable if we consider the changing demographics of baby boomers becoming a tsunami of seniors.

Universal health care, as it is provided now in Canada, is unsustainable if we consider the changing demographics of baby boomers becoming a tsunami of seniors. Consequently, all levels of government will have to struggle with hard decisions about what to cut and what to keep. But rather than just looking at the cuts, are they also looking at pro-active methods of reducing health care costs, by reducing junk food consumption?

Just imagine if junk food were taxed at the same levels as gas for your car?

What if the government slapped on a 30, 40 or 70 per cent health tax surcharge on pop, chips, candy, burgers, fries? What if eating junk food became phenomenally expensive instead of being the cheapest and least healthy option out there.

And what if nutritious food purchases were tax deductible?

Just imagine being able to write off a few thousand dollars worth of fruits, vegetables, dairy produce and meat every year – just imagine if there were additional incentive deductions for buying Canadian!

Obesity leads to many chronic conditions, and chronic conditions cost the system a fortune.

Almost one fourth of Canadians are risk of these due to obesity and “people with chronic conditions use health-care services more often and more intensively than do those without, and the intensity of service use increases as the numbers of conditions go up.

The problem with the present health-care system is that there is no built-in contract of personal responsibility for your own health. Therefore, a person can smoke or drink or drive like a maniac all they want – eat burgers every day of the week, wash it down with big gulp drinks that can feature up to 52 spoonfuls of sugar (five times the daily recommended dose of sugar), and then when they get sick or have joint problems due to obesity – hey, it’s up to their fellow taxpayers to finance their wellness program.

And unfortunately, the medical system does not provide wellness programs for chronic abusers of health.

It provides drugs, stitches, surgery, recommendations and more treatments. But there is little or no behaviour modification program built in to the “wellness plan” of the health service consumer to train them to act in a more responsible, healthy way.

Whoa, you say. That would be infringing on a person’s civil liberties, but why should other taxpayers have to finance the consequences of reckless diets?

I do not believe that this was the intent of the originators of our health care system.

It was understood then, that people would generally be healthy, and if not, they would be helped without financial burden.

But today, almost the reverse is true. Most of our eating and exercise habits contribute to poor health – but the health care system is the only body responsible for fixing it.

With our nanny state mentality, we believe that big government and big health care have to make us all healthy, no matter what our ailment, and certainly no matter how much we may have caused it.

Of course, many unfortunate people fall ill or suffer from conditions that have nothing to do with their lifestyle or actions – but these are in the minority when compared to those who actively ruin their health by pumping their mouths full of sugar, salt and fat.

Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.

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