French MPs vote for tax on energy drinks

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French parliamentarians on Thursday (24 October) voted for a new tax on energy drinks, such as Red Bull.

The  vote is the second attempt to impose a charge on the products after the first was overturned in court. Members of the parliament voted to approve a tax of one euro per litre from next year on drinks that contain at least 0.22 grammes of caffeine per litre, or 0.3 grammes of taurine.

The amendment has already been dubbed 'the Red Bull amendment' by local media after the world's most popular energy drink.

The new tax aims at promoting health by limiting the consumption of such drinks, but does not affect ordinary coffee.

Last year, a constitutional court overturned a similar vote and the new tax could also be challenged in court by the centre-right opposition, which was against the measure introduced by the Socialist member of the Parliament, Gerard Bapt.

Bapt, who's also a doctor, argues that French studies have shown that energy beverage can cause heart problems and neuropsychological problems.

Red Bull has been on sale in France since 2008 after being banned for 12 years due to health authorities' concerns about taurine.

The American Medical Association said in June it would support a ban on the marketing of energy drinks to children under 18, saying the beverages could cause heart problems and other health issues.

While taxes on alcohol and cigarettes have been commonplace for many years, taxes on specific unhealthy foods and drinks aimed at combating obesity have only recently been introduced by some governments.

One example is Finland where extra taxes on candies, chocolate, cocoa-based products, ice cream and ice lollies have been in place since 2011. A separate tax on soft drinks was increased and widened to also include other categories of beverages.

In September 2011, Hungary raised a tax on a series of unhealthy products such as certain soft drinks, energy drinks, pre-packed sweetened products, salty snacks and condiments. At the same time, the health minister of Ireland, James Reilly, announced that he was considering introducing a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.

In France, a tax on all beverages with added sugar or with artificial sweeteners had already been introduced in 2012.

Several European countries have recently introduced taxes on certain foods and drinks justifying them on both health and economic grounds.

Taxes have been championed by some as an instrument to tackle rising obesity and as an attractive way to increase government revenue at a time of economic hardship.

Others argue that they are ineffective, drive down consumer demand and reduce companies' competitiveness.

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  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): Website
  • World Health Organisation (WHO): Website

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