The proposed tax was presented by the French Senate in a report 'Taxation and public health: evaluation of behavioural taxation', last week. The report provides arguments for a 'behavioural tax' which would be aimed at counteracting poor dietary habits, and compensating for the public health costs associated with the consumption of junk-food.
“If the consumption of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food is deemed high risk in relation to public health, then they are synonymous to considerable costs to society," the report states.
"Behavioural taxation could therefore be envisaged as a way to reduce costs and generate the funds necessary to offset their negative externalities.”
A summary of the report, found here, explains that it does not seem logical for certain foods and drinks that are linked to an increase in public health costs to benefit from a 'reduced rate' of VAT - as is currently the case.
"At the moment this applies mainly to drinks with added sugar and energy drinks, which enjoy the same rate as mineral water or fresh fruit juices," notes the report.
"Broadly speaking, the team considers that the application of reduced VAT rates to all foodstuffs except confectionery ... margarines, vegetable fats and caviar should be re-assessed to take into account the nutritional characteristics of the different products."
Taxes or contributions?
The senators behind the report, Yves Daudigny and Catherine Deroche told EurActiv that they prefer to encourage talk of 'contribution to public health' rather than framing the report as a suggestion for a 'behavioural taxation.'
“The term behavioural taxation has a moralistic nature and makes the citizen feel guilty. Our objective is to say that certain products are unhealthy. The fact that these products are subject to a tax which contributes to public health, seems completely coherent," said Senator Catherine Deroche.
Oils, soft drinks and energy drinks
The parliamentary report calls for harmonised taxes on vegetable oils, in addition to a 20% tax on soft drinks - both of which it claims will limit the risks of heart diseases, and the risk of cardiovascular events in particular.
“Behavioural taxation aims to reduce the consumption of drinks known to cause serious cardiac accidents in genetically predisposed consumers, notably by implementing a tax on energy drinks,” the report outlines.