Lawmakers have shift their sights to another target – taxing the meat we eat.
Taxing red meat could save 220,000 lives a year and slash the cost of global health care by £30 billion.
The claims come from research that links eating red meat – typically beef, lamb and pork – to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart problems and cancer.
Scientists at the World Health Organisation looked at the cost of eating meat to the global economy and how much tax people should pay to offset the health consequences of their diet.
They reckon 2.4 million people will die as a result of eating red meat by 2020, at a cost of £219 billion to the global economy.
The level of tax varies between countries.
Impact on personal health
In the UK, the cost of red meat would need to rise by 14%, while a tax of 79% would be slapped on the price of processed meats.
Many other countries face much higher taxes – in the USA the cost of red meat should hike by 34%, while process meats should see a 163% tax.
Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann, from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford University, said: “The consumption of red and processed meat exceeds recommended levels in most high and middle-income countries.
“This is having significant impacts not only on personal health, but also on healthcare systems, which are taxpayer-funded in many countries, and on the economy, which is losing its labour force due to ill health and care for family members who fall ill.
Eating meat comes at a cost
“I hope that governments will consider introducing a health levy on red and processed meat as part of a range of measures to make healthy and sustainable decision-making easier for consumers.”
Springmann argued the red meat tax was not about governments telling people what to eat but an explanation of how their diet choice affects their lives.
“A health levy on red and processed meat would not limit choices, but send a powerful signal to consumers and take pressure off our healthcare systems,” he said.
“However, our findings make it clear that the consumption of red and processed meat has a cost, not just to people’s health and to the planet, but also to the healthcare systems and the economy.”