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France Bans Free Soda Refills To Combat Obesity

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Once again, France is stepping up its fight against obesity. In 2004, lawmakers banned vending machines from schools. In 2011, the country limited French fries servings to only once a week. In 2012, it put a “soda tax” into effect. This Friday, the government announced that restaurants are no longer allowed to offer free refills of sodas and other sugary drinks.

This is the latest attempt to address what French lawmakers say is a nonstop increase in the national obesity rate. The primary target of the law are foreign fast-food chains. It is set to take effect immediately, and aims to “limit, especially among the young,” risks of diabetes and obesity, The New York Times reports.

The move echoes recommendations by the World Health Organization, which has encouraged countries to put taxes on sugary drinks in an effort to combat the rising obesity rates worldwide.

The organization presented data in 2016 on the benefits of such measures.

On average, the French are slightly less overweight than their European and American counterparts. The number of obese adults in France was 15.3% in 2014 – below the European Union average of 15.9%, Eurostat reported. Malta has the highest obesity rate in Europe at 26%.

In the United States, the average is 36.5%, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

France has been one of the leading countries battling obesity, along with countries like Japan. In Japan, a national law mandates that companies and local governments must measure the waistlines of people between the ages of 40 and 74, and urge them to exercise. In Mexico, a 10% surcharge was placed on sugary drinks in 2014 to address the increase in diabetes cases.

The new law has divided the people of France, who consume fewer sodas per capita than other countries, with some citizens claiming that individuals must also take responsibility for their consumption of junk food. A young man said, “They might as well put scales in front of fast-food restaurants.”

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