SHESPEAKS Your Power to Influence

Will a Time Tax Help People Make Healthier Choices At the Vending Machine?

Will a Time Tax Help People Make Healthier Choices At the Vending Machine?

Convincing people to make healthier choices when they’re hungry is no easy feat, but a creator of a new kind of vending machine may have the right idea. An associate professor of preventative medicine at Rush University Medical Center, Brad Appelhans, has designed a vending machine with a time tax. Rather than taxing the customer’s wallet, the machine takes longer to release unhealthy snack foods.

NPR reports about the vending machines Appelhans calls DISC “Delays to Influence Snack Choice”.  Appelhans says of the project, “We were interested in the ability to test whether time delays can nudge people to healthier choices.” And indeed they have. The machines have been tested on Rush University students and staff for the last several months and have found that the 25 second delay placed on unhealthy fare has led to a 5% reduction in unhealthy choices.

Though 5% may not sound like an awful lot, Appelhans explains his thinking. He says the effect, “is not huge, but if you are to extrapolate this out across 1 million vending machines and over time, it could add up to something meaningful.”

When users of these new vending machines make a healthier snack choice, the item is immediately released upon payment. Snacks that were deemed unhealthy by Appelhans had to meet a certain criteria of calorie count, sugar and sodium content, and whether or not they contain transfat.

Before trying out DISC on the vending machines, Appelhans placed a 25 cent tax on the less healthy options which also led to about a 5% reduction of unhealthy choices. But, Appelhans is confident that DISC is a better move than charging extra money for high calorie snacks. In the past, we have seen the controversy that a monetary tax on unhealthy snacks can cause. Appelhans explains, “Unlike the discount, the delays didn't harm the overall revenues of the machine. Places want people to have more nutrition, but they don't want to lose revenue. So the time delay might be a nice way to have it both ways.”

What do you think of vending machines that have a time delay on unhealthy snacks?

Do you think a time delay might prevent you from making an unhealthy snack choice?

Make a Comment

Comment  *
 
 
  • KasperGrl By KasperGrl
    04.04.17  

    Very interesting article! However, couldn't they also just put more healthier snacks in the machines and less unhealthy snacks???

  • Lanitai By Lanitai
    04.05.17  

    I think that if someone really wants to have it they will buy it regardless, or choose to purchase it at another location.

  • vintagepurple By vintagepurple
    04.22.17  

    seems silly, what if i get two healthy snacks eat them both bam unhealthy

  • Ocean_and_sun By Ocean_and_sun
    04.23.17  

    If people want their unhealthy food they will wait regardless of the time tax. I mean look at fast food drive thrus. Regardless of wait times people want what they crave.

  • rajunc555 By rajunc555
    05.03.17  

    I don't think there should be a delay. A person can make up their own mind.

  • Tinysaver By Tinysaver
    05.03.17  

    Not really and I believe it could just make someone mad.

  • beautyusa By beautyusa
    05.31.17  

    I think it would make some people upset. Majority of the snacks I eat are healthy. It would be a great idea to simply put more healthier snacks in the vending machines.

  • beautyusa By beautyusa
    05.31.17  

    I think it would make some people upset. Majority of the snacks I eat are healthy. It would be a great idea to simply put more healthier snacks in the vending machines.

More stories like this