The Impact of a Snack Tax on Food Policy in Toronto

1. Introduction

The prevalence of obesity and diet-related chronic disease is on the rise globally, making the creation of effective food policy more important than ever before. An effective food policy has the capacity to impact the abilities of governments to ensure that concerns of food security are addressed. This paper will explore how a snack tax, as a tool of food policy, can be used to achieve the goals set out by the Toronto Food Policy Council (TFPC). Specifically, it will discuss how a snack tax can help to create a more just and sustainable food system in Toronto.

2. The Effects of a Snack Tax on Food Policy

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that taxes on unhealthy foods can lead to improvements in dietary intake and reductions in obesity and diet-related chronic disease (1, 2, 3). A recent systematic review found that price increases on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) were associated with reduced consumption of these drinks (4). Another study found that a 10% increase in the price of SSBs was associated with an 8% reduction in consumption (5).

In general, taxes on unhealthy foods are regressive, meaning that they disproportionately impact lower-income individuals and families (6). However, some research suggests that taxes on unhealthy foods may be less regressive when they are used to fund programs that improve access to healthy foods or offset the impacts of the tax on low-income households (7, 8). For example, Mexico implemented a 1 peso per liter tax on SSBs in 2014. The Mexican government used the revenue from this tax to fund programs that increased access to fruits and vegetables for low-income households (9).

3. The Toronto Food Policy Council and Its Goals

The TFPC is a non-profit organization that works to create a just and sustainable food system in Toronto. The TFPC’s vision is for “a food system that is fair, accessible, green, and safe for all who live and work in Toronto” (10). The TFPC has identified four main goals for creating a just and sustainable food system in Toronto:

1) Health: To promote health and well-being for all residents of Toronto through good food;

2) Agricultural land preservation and urban planning: To protect prime agricultural lands within the Greater Golden Horseshoe region and support urban agriculture as part of an integrated land use strategy;

3) Economic development and urban agriculture: To grow the local economy by supporting the development of a vibrant local food sector;

4) Food waste recovery: To reduce waste in the food system by recovering edible food that would otherwise go to waste.

4. How a Snack Tax Can Be Used to Achieve the TFPC’s Goals

A snack tax could be used to achieve all four of the TFPC’s goals for creating a just and sustainable food system in Toronto. For example, revenue from a snack tax could be used to fund programs that promote health and well-being for all residents of Toronto through good food. These programs could include initiatives that increase access to healthy foods for low-income households or education campaigns about nutrition and healthy eating. Revenue from a snack tax could also be used to support the development of urban agriculture as part of an integrated land use strategy or to offset the impacts of the tax on low-income households.

5. Conclusion

The prevalence of obesity and diet-related chronic disease is on the rise globally, making the creation of effective food policy more important than ever before. A snack tax, as a tool of food policy, can be used to achieve the goals set out by the Toronto Food Policy Council. specifically, a snack tax can help to create a more just and sustainable food system in Toronto.

FAQ

The arguments for implementing a snack tax include the potential to raise revenue for the government, discourage unhealthy eating habits, and improve public health. The arguments against implementing a snack tax include the potential for regressive effects on low-income individuals and families, as well as the possibility that the tax would be difficult to enforce.

A snack tax could be structured as a specific tax on certain types of snacks or as an excise tax on all snacks. The specific tax would target items like chips, candy, and baked goods, while the excise tax would apply to all snacks regardless of type.

A snack tax is likely to be effective in reducing obesity and improving public health if it is structured properly and applied consistently. However, there are some concerns that a snack tax could disproportionately impact low-income individuals and families.

The burden of a snack tax would likely fall primarily on consumers, though there could be some pass-through effects to producers as well.

Some potential unintended consequences of implementing a snack tax include black markets for taxed items, substitution of other unhealthy foods for taxed snacks, and difficulty in enforcement