Most people hate taxes. Most people enjoy junk food. In Denmark, we’re going to see which emotion wins out in the end. Starting today, every product sold in the country that contains more than 2.3% saturated fats will be taxed in what is being called the world’s first ever “fat tax.”

As Time reports, the percentage of Denmark’s population deemed to be clinically obese is under the European average, but saturated fats have been found to be the cause of 4% of premature deaths in the country. Those products over the saturated fat limit will be taxed about $2.90 USD a kilogram. This means that consumers will be paying about 30% more for butter, 8% more for chips, and over 7% more for olive oil.

Two questions will certainly be asked about this new tax: is it aimed in the right direction, and would it work in other countries, like the US?

Taxes can obviously create a disincentive to do something. Often the worry is that this disincentive will just push people to look at less “legitimate” means of getting what they want. The various taxes and government regulations of the past on tobacco and alcohol show this – people started bootlegging or getting the products illegally from outside the area. I don’t know if that’s going to be the case in Denmark. Will there be chip smugglers? Would it be worthwhile bootlegging butter? Does it make any sense to get fatty foods shipped in, or travel to another country just to get them? Danes are really going to make the choice between a lighter wallet or lighter foods.

You also have to wonder whether saturated fats are the best thing to be taxed to prevent people from getting fat. What about salt, sugar, or cholesterol? While it might be more difficult to tax those things, they sure seem like they are similarly responsible for people’s weight issues.

The success of a fat tax in the US would definitely depend on how things work out in Denmark. So much of the “American way” is based on quick and easy food that will be enjoyed by the largest amount of people. That often means lots of fat, salt and sugar. But even McDonald’s is starting to see the potential in developing things for those consumers more concerned about eating healthy. If the demand for healthier foods is there, the industries will undoubtedly cater to that market. A tax like the one in Denmark might be a step toward creating even more of that demand.

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