The majority of American consumers would support a 'fat tax,' or a tax placed on unhealthy processed foods, if the revenues were used to make healthier food less expensive, according to a new survey.
The survey, conducted by 'healthy lifestyle' firm eDiets.com, revealed that 75 percent of participants would support the tax designed to discourage consumers from purchasing high-fat, low-nutrition foods.
The controversial 'fat tax' first gained attention over 10 years ago, when it was recommended as a means to help combat widespread obesity. The idea behind the tax was that it would be imposed on certain 'unhealthy' foods, and be used to subsidize sales of 'healthy' foods, in order to make it cheaper to stick to a healthy diet.
According to the new survey, although 57 percent of respondents said they consume junk food at least once a week, 38 percent said that a tax imposed on these foods would not affect their purchasing habits.
The survey revealed that 27 percent of respondents cited fast food as the "worst offending" junk food.
But for those who would slash the junk if made to pay more, the products they were most likely to give up were soda and potato chips, followed by candy bars, hamburgers and ice cream.
There has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States over the past 20 years - more than 64 percent of US adults are currently either overweight or obese, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
And children's obesity has also gained significant attention in the health care and child welfare arenas over the past five years. In 2002, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) cited that 16 percent of children aged 6-11 were overweight, with the same percentage holding true for 12-19 year olds.
Worldwide over 22 million children under five are severely overweight. Experts say junk food and low exercise levels, combined with the popularity of computer games and television, are behind the growing obesity rates.
But although some US cities already have special taxes on prepared foods, the implementation of a 'fat tax' remains a highly disputed matter, with campaigners claiming that the extra revenue is often used to cover budget deficits.
Last year, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's plans to place a tax on fast food were accused of being "simply unworkable" and dismissed as a cosmetic exercise to help cover the city's budget deficit by the Michigan Restaurant Association.
The City of Detroit had claimed the proposal of a modest 2 percent fast-food tax - on top of the 6 percent state sales tax that already exists on restaurant meals - is a vital step to reducing obesity.