Doctors Propose 18% 'Pizza Tax' to Fight Obesity, Offset Health-Care Costs

If such a plan were enacted, a $2.75 slice in NYC, for instance, would jump 50¢ to $3.25.


Science Daily recently reported that researchers have recommended the use of surcharges (taxes and fees) on unhealthy food items like pizza and soda to help offset the nearly $150 billion a year the U.S. government spends on health care issues related to obesity.

Doctors Mitchell H. Katz and Rajiv Bhatia published an article titled "Food Surcharges and Subsidies: Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" on Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The two suggest that raising the cost of or specially taxing food items that are high in saturated fats and sugar will have consumers thinking twice before making unhealthy meal choices. Their recommendation is an 18% tax on such items.

On a $2.75 slice (an average price point for slices in NYC), that would translate to a 50¢ surcharge. On a large pepperoni pizza from Domino's ($13.05), that's an extra $2.35.

This tax would be similar to the cigarette tax that some states have in place in an attempt to reduce smoking. For example, New York State places a tax of $2.75 on a pack of smokes, whereas homes of Big Tobacco charges far less. Virginia only taxes 30¢ a pack; South Carolina, 7¢. I wonder if pizza-producing states like New York would similarly tax less for pies if some such bill goes through.

But the bigger question is whether states should tax "unhealthy" foods to reduce obesity-related medical expenses or just mind their own beeswax. Shouldn't it be up to individuals to decide how they want to consume their ideal (or even not-so-ideal) daily caloric intake? And what about the inclusion of pizza in public school and other government institutions' cafeterias?

Should pizza be generalized as an "unhealthy food" when there are endless possibilities and variations?

We want to read your thoughts on this. What do you think?