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Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis


Exploring the potential of taxes as a method to fight obesity epidemic

09 Apr 2010

The potential of public policy options such as increased taxes on certain foods and beverages as a method to fight the growing obesity epidemic in North America will be explored at the CHEPA monthly seminar on April 21.

Frank Chaloupka, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Director of the university’s Health Policy Center, will show how higher tobacco taxes in the United States led to a reduction in smoking, and discuss how a similar plan of action could impact on peoples’ food and drink choices.

The presentation entitled Applying lessons learned from tobacco to promote healthy eating will take place from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in HSC-1J8.

Chaloupka will provide a brief review on the extensive research demonstrating that higher tobacco taxes are effective in significantly reducing use and its consequences by encouraging cessation, preventing initiation and reducing frequency of use. Studies have also shown that dedicating some tobacco tax revenues to comprehensive tobacco control programs further reduces tobacco use.

He will also show how obesity rates have risen over the past 30 years, while the inflation-adjusted price of fruits and vegetables has increased, and the inflation-adjusted price of carbonated beverages and candy has declined.

The small but growing body of research that is now finding significant associations between food prices and weight outcomes, suggesting that significant taxes on unhealthy products might reduce obesity, will also be examined.

All are welcome to attend the seminar.

Chaloupka is a Fellow at the University of Illinois’ Institute for Government and Public Affairs, a research associate in the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Health Economics Program and Children’s Program, and director of ImpacTeen: A Policy Research Partnership for Healthier Youth Behavior. His research focuses on the policy and economic determinants of health behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption, healthy eating, physical activity and obesity.

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