Germany Weighs Tax on the Obese

Updated: 25 days 19 hours ago
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Hugh Collins Contributor

(July 23) -- A tax on fat?

Marco Wanderwitz, a conservative member of parliament for the German state of Saxony, said it is unfair and unsustainable for the taxpayer to carry the entire cost of treating obesity-related illnesses in the public health system.

"I think that it would be sensible if those who deliberately lead unhealthy lives would be held financially accountable for that," Wanderwitz said, according to Reuters.
Overweight People.
Germany's health system is paid for by a series of mandatory health insurance funds, all of which are reporting serious deficits as the system is overused.

Germany, famed for its beer, pork and chocolates, is one of the fattest countries in Europe. Twenty-one percent of German adults were obese in 2007, and the German newspaper Bild estimates that the cost of treating obesity-related illnesses is about 17 billion euro, or $21.7 billion, a year.

Walter Willett, a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, described the idea of a fat tax as "not humane." He told AOL News that lifestyle is not the only factor in obesity, with both genetics and urban environments playing major roles.

"It's not fair to tax somebody just for being obese," Willett said. "Most people who are obese would prefer not to be so."

Health economist Jurgen Wasem called for Germany to tackle the problem of fattening snacks in order to raise money and reduce obesity.

"One should, as with tobacco, tax the purchase of unhealthy consumer goods at a higher rate and partly maintain the health system," Wasem said, according to Germany's English-language newspaper The Local. "That applies to alcohol, chocolate or risky sporting equipment such as hang-gliders."

Others are suggesting even more extreme measures. The German teachers association recently called for school kids to be weighed each day, The Daily Telegraph said.

The fat kids could then be reported to social services, who could send them to health clinics.

Willett identified improving children's diets as one of the most effective ways to deal with obesity and spiraling health care costs.

"The fact that we're not feeding our kids as well as we can is very foolish," Willett told AOL News.
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