It makes more sense to ban trans fats than to tax them. Industry needs a strong incentive to stop using partially hydrogenated fat.

The average Canadian eats eight grams of trans fats a day. Eating one gram a day raises your chance of heart disease by 20%. Most chips, muffins, scones, crackers, salad dressing, doughnuts, pizza, fries, and margarine contain trans fats. In fact, if you heat soy, corn, safflower, cottonseed, CANOLA, or any fat to a high heat, it can turn into a trans fat.

For many years, food processors marketed their products as being healthy for containing trans fats. The idea was that saturated animal fats were bad, but that vegetable-derived monunsaturated fats were good. However, trans fats actually take on many of the properties of saturated fats — they aren’t good.

A tax has the effect of raising revenues and curbing consumption. It won’t eliminate consumption. In fact, it diverts money to the bad activity (to pay for health care) and reduces the money the trans fat eater had available for other pursuits. This is not good for the economy. If the government taxes all points of production, companies have less money to spend on other activities. This is also bad for the economy. Moreover, in both cases, the tax would need to amount to more than the cost of switching to non-trans fats, or else it would still be cheaper to eat trans fats. And cheap is the raison d’etre for trans fats.

Trans fats can be substituted, unlike alcohol, marijuana, or tobacco. Food processors could easily use non-hydrogenated fats and still have the same products. So there’s no need to worry about an underground economy for doughnuts and pizza.

I try to avoid trans fats. I check labels and only buy trans fat-free crackers, potato chips, and retail bakey products. However, it’s awfully hard to check the contents of a muffin at Bread Garden or to tell if a restaurant is truthful in saying it uses trans fat-free canola oil.

Also, most people don’t know trans fats are bad. People don’t read food labels. Last week, the Sun reported that only nine percent of Vancouverites (the health conscious Canadians) check for trans fats. How much would a public education campaign cost, when it’s taken 30 years to get people to cut smoking, and 1/4 people still smoke?