Knesset Passes Sweet Drink Tax

YERUSHALAYIM -
The cold beverages section at a supermarket in Israel. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israelis were hit with another tax on Tuesday, as the Knesset narrowly voted to approve a new surcharge on sugary drinks for the sake of their health.

The Knesset passed the measure by a single vote, 57-56, and it went into effect immediately.

It raises the price for every liter (33.8 oz.) of sweet drink by NIS 1 ($0.32). For diet drinks — defined as having less than five grams of sugar per 100 milliliters — the addition is 70 agorot ($0.23) per liter.

The sweet drink tax follows one a few weeks ago that raised the price of disposable plastic cutlery by as much as double, to reduce nonbiodegradable waste that harms the environment.

At the same time, Israeli food producers and importers have in the past few days announced price raises. Osem said it will be raising prices 3-7% due to the rising cost of ingredients.

The authors of Tuesday’s bill cited Health Ministry figures which say that sweet drinks are to blame for 30-40 percent of Israelis’ consumption of added sugar that isn’t found naturally in foods. Obesity among Israeli children now occupies an unenviably high ranking in world data.

The experience of other countries — including Britain, France, Finland and Mexico — demonstrate that taxes on sweet items can be effective in reducing sugar intake and, hopefully, improving the general health.