A common practice in the United States is now against the law in France. While free refills from soda fountains have always been uncommon within French borders, the country has now made it illegal.
The ban, which applies to all sweetened soft drinks, went into effect on January 27th. It prohibits restaurants, hotels and catering services from allowing customers to refill their drinks for free. The change is part of a public health law passed a year ago and is aimed at fighting obesity.
While France has some of the lowest obesity rates among developed countries, recent statistics show that number is increasing. The country’s former Health Minister, Marisol Touraine, explained she hoped to prevent the free refill policy from spreading to France.
Meanwhile, in countries such as the U.S., a plan to ban free refills is almost unheard of. In fact, sugar intake continues to rise in the U.S., largely amongst children and teens.
This raises the question of how Americans might react to an anti free-refill policy. Or, if charging for refills would deter customers from ordering a second beverage.
To put things into perspective, recently we learned that nearly a third of American teenagers are consuming at least two sugary drinks per day. And, according to a health brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds are consuming a minimum of one sugary drink per day.
The Role of Artificial Sweeteners
Sugary drinks aren’t the only way American children quench their thirst for something sweet. Artificial sweeteners are also topping the charts. According to a recent study, 80 percent of children consume low-calorie sweeteners once a day, while 20 percent consume them more than once a day.
Artificial sweeteners are commonly found in diet sodas, which account for most low-calorie sweetener consumption. Seeing that diet beverages can be found at most soda fountains, free refills make it easy to get ahold of multiple servings.
A Call to Action Against Sugar Intake
These findings aren’t due to lack of trying. In fact, the report on sugary drink consumption arrives amid cooperative efforts to cut back on high sugar intake.
The American Heart Association released recommendations last year stating that children should limit their sugar intake to no more than six teaspoons per day – significantly less than a typical soda or other sweetened beverage. The AHA also suggests no more than eight ounces of sweetened beverages per week.
Furthermore, four U.S. cities voted for soda taxes in November, 2016. The decision to tax these items comes from knowledge that sweetened beverages such as soda and soft drinks can contribute to health problems like obesity and diabetes. This comes as no surprise, since beverages like soda, sport drinks and juice can often contain upwards of 150 calories.
While efforts for taxing soda have reached the legislative level in the U.S., it could be a long way before we take measures similar to what we’re seeing in France.