Japan has instituted a "fat tax". Their government is imposing heavy fines (in the millions) for private corporations and local governments that have overweight employees on their payrolls. How do they determine if someone is overweight? The measurement of the waistline must be no more than 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women. The goal of the new law is to decrease their overweight population by 10% over 4 years and 25% over 7 years.
I think this is quite an ambitious goal, especially for the country that already exhibits excellent cardiovascular health and longevity. However, I will be very interested in the results of this initiative. Will the Japanese government have its goals met?
I think it may have a positive effect. There is nothing that drives people more than adverse consequences, and because of the steep fines set as punishment, I would expect Japanese citizens to increase their vigilance towards calorie reduction and increase their calorie expenditure via exercise.
Would this work in the United States, where obesity is a much bigger problem than in Japan? I'm not sure, but if monetary fines and possibly the threat of losing employment are enforced, then it may. Certainly, the Japanese will likely have an easier time at accomplishing their goal because of their nationalized health care system, the general hardworking/no nonsense nature of their citizens, and their baseline diet, which is highly dependent on seafood.
If it does work in Japan, then I think lawmakers should consider some type of similar system here. Obesity is simply exploding in the U.S. over the past 20 years. It is crushing our health care system because of the multitude of medical problems, and thus medical expenses, associated with obesity. Here's just a short list of problems that are obesity-related: diabetes, hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, polycystic ovarian disease, increased triglycerides, fatty liver, breast cancer (possibly), gallstones, gout, pancreatitis. The problem with most of these conditions is that many of them lead to coronary artery disease, stroke, kidney disease, and congestive heart failure.
Something must be done, and public awareness has not been a sufficient impetus thus far. Perhaps we should institute a radial "fat tax" plan akin to our Japanese comrades. Although, I better watch out, because my waistline would certainly qualify me for a fine under Japanese rules!!