Greater City Providence

Fund RIPTA with a Fat Tax?

Fatty Food

Photo (cc) ckforjc from stock.xchng.

Denmark is the first country in the world to impose a “fat tax.” The Christian Science Monitor reports:

The Nordic country introduced the tax Saturday, of 16 kroner ($2.90) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of saturated fat in a product.

Ole Linnet Juul, food director at Denmark’s Confederation of Industries, says the tax will increase the price of a burger by around $0.15 and raise the price of a small package of butter by around $0.40.

The tax was approved by large majority in a parliament in March as a move to help increase the average life expectancy of Danes.

Denmark already has a tax on sugary foods such as candy and soda, as do many other European countries. The Danish government imposed the tax as part of measures to increase the country’s life expectancy, which has recently begun to fall.

If Rhode Island imposed such a tax, the revenue could be put towards RIPTA. A tax on unhealthy food would help to reduce consumption of such foods, and using the proceeds to fund RIPTA would allow the agency to better serve people providing an alternative to driving. As transit riders walk for part of their trips, improved transit would result in health benefits for riders.

Crazy yes, but we’ve had no problem taxing cigarettes. The Danes put the cigarette tax and the sugary and fatty foods taxes all under one umbrella of improving the health of the country’s citizens.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • If the tax were implemented, it should probably go only to capital improvements, not into RIPTA’s general funds. Since we want to reduce the consumption of fatty foods, we don’t want the “fat tax” to give RIPTA problems like the gas tax.

    Hehe, that last sentence is funny in so many ways.

  • Im all in support of this, but not in favor of raising the price on KFC and chips : (

  • By the way, this new tax in Denmark is on “saturated fat”, meaning that it will touch all types of food we are used to here, like cheese, yogourt, milk, red meat, etc. It does not *only* apply to junk food, aka sodas, fries, chips.

    I really think it’s a controversial choice and would be extremely difficult to put in place. Denmark will also use this money to actually lower the cost of other food essentials, like fruits and vegetables. I think that makes way more sense than using this money to improve public transportation.

  • @Francois, our country has a more direct way to lower the costs of fruits and veggies without an additional tax: end subsidies to corn and soybean growers. If the subsidies are repealed wholesale, market economics will take over and the price of corn vs. other veggies will equalize as more farmers add variety to their crops, or the subsidies could be distributed more fairly amongst other crops to incentivize their production.

  • Andrew: Rhode Island can’t do anything on that front, except maybe move its primary early enough to mess with Iowa’s special privilege.

  • @Alon, How true. Isn’t Iowa required by law to hold its cacuses (cauci?) first, or am I thinking of the New Hampshire primary? So sick of rural interests, ie “real American” interests dominating the choosing of candidates for national office…

Providence, RI
5:16 am8:08 pm EDT
Feels like: 61°F
Wind: 3mph NE
Humidity: 67%
Pressure: 29.88"Hg
UV index: 0
77°F / 59°F
68°F / 63°F
81°F / 61°F