Time to tax fatties?

Guest Post

If you?re fat. A hippo. A fatty. A lard ass. A blubber gut. If you can’t even see your toes when you look down you should be taxed for it.

In New Zealand, we have a fully funded public healthcare system. If you?ve had an injury or have collapsed on the ground, our hospital services will take care of you free of charge paid for by the New Zealand government.

However, it?s important to mention that ?there?s no such thing as a free lunch?. It may be free for you to visit the hospital, but your doctors, nurses and the electricity company that powers the building still need to be paid. This doesn’t happen by magic, so where does that money come from?

While you?re laying on that semi-uncomfortable hospital bed eating the bland flavours of the food, your neighbours, community and each resident in New Zealand are supporting you through their tax dollars. Astonishingly this takes up $624 million per year as of a 2012 study by the University of Auckland. That?s 4.4% of our overall health care budget the government is happy to spend to keep a blubber guts food addiction alive and un-needing to change as they?re not worried because they don?t need to pay for it when they develop diseases and need to be hospitalised.

However, this all could have been avoided fat people. You could have avoided needing to be rushed to the hospital after developing a disease and you could have avoided your community needing to carry your financial (and essentially weight) baggage to pay for the health care you receive. This could have all been avoided if you had just stopped obsessively eating and ever actually went for a 10-minute walk.

Don?t get me wrong, if you?ve ended up putting some weight on over Christmas and come into New Year’s a little chubby I?m not talking about you.

But if on every 365 days of the year you make it hard for me to get onto an elevator without being forced to squeeze myself next to a wall, then you need to be taxed.

When I bring up this point in discussion, many people ask me why I believe obese people shouldn?t be covered under the healthcare system.

And to be fair, I do think that they should be covered for some things that happens to them. Unfortunately, accidents and events that require hospitalisation occur, and under the current public healthcare system everyone should be covered for these.

However, if you?ve developed a disease or other problem directly related to your personal choices and not by accident or genetics, then why should the residents of New Zealand support those irresponsible personal decisions by paying for the consequences?

If you?re burdening society because of a conscious personal choice, other people should not be forced to support those choices by having to pay for the consequences of these decisions.

Question: If personal choices that lead to hospitalisation shouldn?t be covered by the public healthcare system, shouldn?t we put a tax on smokers too?

The problem is, smokers already pay their fair share. In fact, they pay three times the expenditure (increasing as tobacco taxes continue to rise) used to help them if they become hospitalised due to smoking related illnesses.

Question: Why don?t we tax unhealthy food rather than fat people themselves?

The reason we have to tax fat people themselves and not sugary food is because unhealthy food does not directly cause health problems. Unlike smoking, where even a social smoker is damaging their lungs, and because of this you?re able to tax the product rather than the person as this allows the smoker to take personal responsibility and pay for themselves. However, if you?re a generally fit person, a chocolate bar won’t affect you in any negative way, which is why you can only tax the person and not the product.

This causes a problem when discussing a sugar tax, why should you penalise a fit person who just wants to treat themselves, when you should be penalising the overweight people whose only exercise is exhausting their mouths by eating too much pizza and lollies.

Question: Wouldn?t this tax encourage fat shaming?

Studies show that you?re influenced by the people and society around you, in fact, a study by UCLA showed that fat shaming was proven to work as it encouraged people to end their eating addiction and become a reasonable weight through societal pressures. So, I would hope that these measures increase fat shaming to help prevent obesity as effectively as smoking shaming reduced the smoking rate.

My argument for placing a tax on the obese is due to my lack of understanding of why I, or the New Zealand people should pay for the negative consequences of one’s actions by overeating. It is their own conscious decision just as it is a smokers to smoke. And as we tax smokers to recoup health care costs and prevent people from continuing to smoke, why should we not tax blubber guts for the same reasons?


– James Davidson