France Sours on Soda, Bans Unlimited Soft Drinks

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January 29, 2017

The soda fountain will soon be a thing of the past in France.

The country has instituted a nationwide ban on unlimited sugary drinks. The new regulation, part of a larger 2015 public health law, went into effect on January 27.

The regulation effectively removes the concept of free refills, making it illegal for anyone to sell more than one drink that has added sugars or sweeteners. Soda is the obvious target of the regulation, which also includes sports drinks, energy drinks, and non-soda soft drinks.

The French government cited the rate of obesity, 15.3 percent, as being unacceptable. That rate is lower than the European Union average, which is 15.9, and much lower than the obesity rate in the U.S., which the Center for Disease Control says is 36.5 percent. Still, France wants to address what it sees a growing problem.

The country has instituted such high-profile measure before, including banning vending machines from schools in 2004 and regulating the amount of french fries and ketchup that school students could get. In line with World Health Organization recommendations, France bought in a soda tax in 2012. The WHO has released several studies showing a clear link between obesity and the consumption of sugary drinks.

Other countries have been operating in a similar ban. Mexico introduced a soda tax in 2014. The U.K. has one in the works for 2018.

Soda taxes in the United States operate at the local or state level. Berkeley, Calif., was the first U.S. city to have a soda tax, in 2014. Four other cities passed similar taxes in 2016 (Boulder, in Colorado, and California's Albany, Oakland, and San Francisco). Other large cities, notably New York and Philadelphia, have sought similar taxes.

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