Matt’s talked in the past about fuel taxes to reduce emissions and reduce the time cost of congestion. This paper suggests that there may be further benefits to a fuel tax. Using US data the author estimates that
…a $1 increase in gasoline prices would reduce obesity by 15% in the U.S., saving 16,000 lives and $17 billion per year. These monetary savings would offset approximately 16% of the increased expenditures on gasoline. Additionally, …13% of the recent rise in obesity from 1979 to 2004 can be attributed to the decline in real gas prices.
He attributes this to both an increased time spent on incidental exercise and a reduction in eating at restaurants. It seems almost too good to be true, and perhaps it is, but it’s certainly an interesting alternative to taxing unhealthy foods.