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Belgian Health Minister Laurette Onkelinx is currently considering the idea of introducing a soda tax in Belgium, based on the French model.
A tax imposed on soft drinks rich in sugar and on diet drinks would not only serve to reduce the consumption of such beverages, but also to generate much-needed additional revenues with which to finance health campaigns, Onkelinx argued. Defending the idea, the Belgian Health Minister alluded to the findings of an "alarming" study, linking the consumption even of diet drinks to an increased risk of diabetes, and pointed out that the French soda tax, applied across France since 2012, has lowered the consumption of fizzy drinks.
A spokesman for the Belgian industry federation of soft drinks (Fieb) accused the Government of merely seeking new sources of revenue. Marquenie insisted that the 3% reduction in the consumption of soda drinks recorded in France in 2012 was not necessarily due to the levy, but might have been weather-related. Marquenie highlighted the fact that Denmark has already u-turned on such taxes, abolishing its tax on saturated fat and now planning to remove the duties on drinks, as part of efforts to stimulate the economy.
President of the French-speaking union of dieticians Serge Pieters underlined his scepticism regarding the actual impact of a soda tax. Pieters stressed that individuals must simply learn to reduce their sugar intake. The fiscal measure alone is not an effective weapon to combat the problem, Pieters emphasized. Pieters did suggest, however, that any income from the levy could also be used to reduce the excise duties on water, to lower the value-added tax on fruit and vegetables, and to install water fountains.
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