It seems that the French are bidding farewell to free re-fills and saying hello to an over-inflated government. Late last week, it was announced that restaurants in France would be subject to prosecution, should they continue to offer unlimited amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages for free or at a fixed price. The French government has actually made it illegal to sell unlimited amounts of sugary drinks.
Now, we all know that sugar is not a benign substance: it contributes to disease risk and the raising rates of obesity. In fact, some research has indicated that sugar has a substantially more profound impact on diabetes risk than other foods. And, it is also a well-known fact that sugar consumption is on the rise — especially in Western cultures like the US. Sugar is a problem. But, is big government really the way to solve it?
Soda is already taxed in France
In 2012, the French government imposed a tax on sweet drinks. Taxing sweet drinks may seem like a reasonable approach, but it inevitably does more harm than good. Statistics from Mexico showed that sugary drink sales fell by 6% in just a single year. However, statistics also showed that this decrease translated only to a very modest decrease in calorie consumption: the average calorie intake in Mexico dropped by a mere 5 calories a day. That’s not exactly enough to help a country win the war against obesity. Furthermore, statistics have shown that the poor lost more of their income to the sugary drink tax than the wealthy.
To put it simply, taxes on sugary beverages did not yield the kind of benefits they were purported to, and the tax put more fiscal stress on poor people than the rich. Who knew.
You can’t legislate calories away
This new piece of legislation out of France takes the notion of sugary drink taxes one step further by mandating how much soda restaurants can give to their patrons, and forcing restaurants to charge their customers each time they need another beverage.
The Telegraph reports:
France’s Health Minister Marisol Touraine has championed the ban on unlimited refills, telling MPs two years ago: “This habit is common in other countries and it is increasingly taking hold in France. I understand it can be attractive for young people who are offered unlimited sugary drinks, which contain an excessive amount of sugar or sweeteners.”
The government claims this latest idea will help to combat obesity and diabetes. While a recent health study has indicated that about half of France’s population is overweight, only about 15 percent appear to be obese.
The government clearly wants to put a stop on obesity before it becomes more problematic, but can they truly legislate such an issue out of existence?
People may drink less soda in restaurants, but one cannot predict what other choices they may make. Perhaps more people will choose to order dessert, instead of drinking the same amount of dollars in soda.
In addition to the taxes and the unlimited soda ban, the French have already limited school vending machines to providing only fruit and water, have banned ketchup in school cafeterias and only permit chips to appear in school lunches once a week. When it comes to school lunches, these parameters are slightly more agreeable, because school lunches are provided by the government. In that regard, they are actively trying to improve the nutrition they provide to children.
However, mandating what the private sector can and cannot do is a bit more controversial. It all seems a bit unreal: the government is essentially trying to tell grown adults how much soda they can drink. [RELATED: Learn more about government overreach at BigGovernment.news]
It is not that the desire to encourage citizens to drink less soda is bad: it’s not. Drinking less soda is a very good thing. But, the government believing that it can simply legislate its desires into action is a very dangerous line of thinking.