Denmark has taken the direct approach.
Enough with the theatrics of cajoling people with the tired expressions of "let's move!" or "eat more veggies!" They are reaching for the pocket book on all Danes, for you see Denmark now has the "fat tax," explains ABC News.
The article explains that the tax, a surcharge applied to foods with more than 2.3% saturated fat, took effect this past Saturday.
Though weaned on big government, some Danes are not happy with the "big brother" approach to the tax of about $2.90 per kilogram of saturated fat in products like butter, milk, cheese, meats and oils.
One consumer complained that the tax made some products more expensive, but did nothing to reduce the cost of healthy food like fresh produce.
Still the story notes that Denmark has a history of being a trend-setter in the "sin taxes," and in 2010 increased taxes on soft drinks, tobacco and alcohol behind the EU prescribed levels.
The Copenhagen Post reported the the Chamber of Commerce wasn't sold on the latest revenue scheme:
A main argument by politicians for the new food tax, based on fat content in food, is that public health needs to be improved. But the Chamber of Commerce does not believe the new tax will have that affect.
“This tax hits all types of food, also healthy and lean products such as duck and cheese. And in reality, this tax will only have a very minute effect on our health. According to the Prevention Commission, the tax will increase our life expectancy by 5.5 days after the tax has been in place for 10 years,” said Lotte Engbæk Larsen, food policy manager of the Chamber of Commerce.
Yet the tax is in place, and at least so far Danes don't appear to be staging a "butter party" rebellion.
I don't think the "fat tax" could happen in America. Politicians here would heed the admonition, "'Nobody's going to lay a finger on my Butterfinger."
For one thing, there is not so much trust in government officials here as there is in Denmark.
In the column, "Trust me, you're in Denmark," American journalist Sharmi Albrechsten talks about "happy Danes."
Data suggests that generous social welfare states (those in Nordics) which usually have very low levels of corruption experience a knock-on effect to trust in society, government and is linked to high levels of happiness and social well being. In addition, and I think this is very interesting…in countries where trust was high for politicians, police and other public officials meant that people also, used a blanket approach that strangers and others could also be trusted as well.
So the Danish government, with its 50% tax rate, income transfers and sturdy safety net, can get away with it. Its people somehow trust their leaders.
Can the U.S. government be trusted to help engineer food choices? Even most Americans would agree that higher taxes should be used to discourage the consumption of tobacco or alcohol and/or dull the ill impact of those products on public health.
The Danes have simply taken the "sin tax" policy to the next logical conclusion. They make it hurt when the happy Dane picks up a ham, a bag of frosted donuts, a 12 pack of Orange Crush - not to mention a carton of cigarettes.
Americans don't trust politicians to create "sin taxes" for bacon and Butterfingers, much less balance the federal budget.
For the sake of their health - and the inevitable enrichment of the fresh produce industry - they should.