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France Just Banned Unlimited Drink Refills

In an attempt to combat obesity, French ministers have passed a law prohibiting all eateries from serving free fizzy drink refills.
Photo via Flickr user Soumyadeep Paul

Unless you've had your head buried in a pile of the white stuff for the past year, you'll know that sugar (yes, that white stuff) has been demonised by health campaigners, scientists, and governments as a major contributor to the world's obesity crisis. At the centre of this sugar witch hunt are soft drinks, which have become the target of anti-obesity strategies across the world.

Countries including the UK, Hungary, and Mexico have opted for a levy on added-sugar drinks like Coca-Cola and Sprite to try and tackle expanding waistlines.


France also introduced a sugar tax in 2012 but today, the country went one step further and made it illegal for all public eateries to offer unlimited soft drink refills.

READ MORE: The World Health Organisation Just Called for a Global Sugar Tax

The move to ban establishments from refilling soft drinks and scrap all self-service "soda fountains" was announced last April, but was only published on the French Government's Journal Officiel yesterday. Coming into effect today, the new law stipulates that it is illegal to sell unlimited sugary drinks at a fixed price or offer unlimited drinks for free.

RIP washing down your Nando's chicken burger with a bottomless Fanta.

But will the new law actually be effective in reducing calorie consumption? While research last year found that teenagers were guzzling "bathtubs full" of Dr Pepper and Pepsi, another study from market research company Euromonitor revealed that worldwide, adults actually consume more calories from alcohol than soft drinks. And for a country with a wine theme park, perhaps the French Government is barking up the wrong tree.

However, there is much to be said for the effectiveness of targeting fizzy drinks, especially when children's health is concerned. In Mexico, where a sugar levy was introduced in 2014, researchers saw a decline of 6 percent in the sales of soft drinks by the end of the year.

Speaking to MUNCHIES, Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England said that bottomless drinks prompt young people to consume more sugar.

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He explained: "Children and teenagers are consuming three times more sugar than the maximum recommended amount. Offering an unlimited supply of sugary drinks does nothing more than promote over-consumption, which contributes to childhood obesity and tooth decay."

Time will tell what kind of effect France's refill ban will have on public health. For now, the French will just have to hop across the Channel if their craving for Coke can't be sated at home.