1st January every year sees new taxes appearing on the scene as the ever-ingenious politicians find new ways to wrangle money out of us. Amongst 2012’s offerings in France is the sugary drinks tax. A tax of €7.16 per hectolitre (= 100 litres) of such drinks, boissons sucrées, has been introduced. This will mean a 1-2 centime rise on the price of a can of drink. The proceeds are going to help fund l’assurance maladie (the public health insurance that the State provides).
Like the ban on tomato ketchup in schools, this is another tax that will Do Us Good and stop us becoming a nation of fatties, apparently. However, well known French economist Pierre Combris has pointed out the flaw in the government’s argument. Governments want to make money so they actually want us to carry on buying vast quantities of fizzy drinks since they’ll raise more tax that way. But if they achieve their avowed public health aim of putting us off these drinks of the devil, then they won’t raise very much revenue after all. Have they really thought this through? Coca-Cola has already protested by not investing 17 million euros in its Bouches-du-Rhône factory in France. That’s a big financial blow to the country.
And will the small price hike break the habits of a lifetime? Smokers and drinkers resiliently take the annual increase in the cost of their vices on the chin, and carry on consuming. Will sugary drinks drinkers be equally resolute, or will the tax burst their bubble? We’ll see.
This tax won’t have much effect in our household. I don’t buy a lot of fizzy drinks or premixed squash, just the occasional bottle of orangina or coke at party time or for a treat. So it won’t be making a huge hole in my purse. And food prices have been going up so quickly generally lately that I’m not sure heavy consumers of the boissons will even notice the rise anyway. We’ve all got used to paying a different price for the same food item every week.
And will France be full of slim people by the end of the year? Hmmm …