A new study from the United Kingdom has concluded that a so-called “sin tax” on unhealthy food items like red meat and sugary drinks would most likely result in lower carbon emissions and a healthier populous overall—at least when looking at their country.
The methodology behind the study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, is a bit complicated, with researchers simulating four different tax scenarios, all of which internalize “the social cost of carbon into the price of food” and a couple of which also toss in a 20 percent sales tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. It’s worth noting that two of the scenarios also include subsidies for foods with lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) to offset what would otherwise be an overall increase in the price of food.
Though the results of the simulations are all slightly different, they have one unifying factor summed up in the study’s conclusion: “Incorporating the social cost of carbon into the price of food has the potential to improve health, reduce GHGEs, and raise revenue.” Specifically, the study suggests that anywhere between 90 and 2,000 deaths in the UK could be “delayed or averted” by implementing one of these four policies.
Of course, all of this is simply a simulation. I once used a computer to simulate building a city and Godzilla attacked it, so you can only trust a sim so much. That said, sin taxes on certain foods and drinks appear to be a discussion that isn’t going away. At least some people are out there trying to crunch the numbers instead of just attacking the issue with their pitchforks.