Sacre bleu! It looks like French school children won’t be having any cheese with their crackers next year — at least if it comes from vending machines. Last week, France banned vending machines from schools. But the trigger happy legislators didn’t stop at the school house door. A second provision imposes a 1.5 percent tax on marketing expenditures for soda and snacks (with the proceeds funding advertisements castigating those foods) unless the TV advertisements include health warnings. The original proposal was even worse. Some lawmakers from the Socialist and Communist parties sought an outright ban on all soda and snack marketing, while others aimed for an astronomical 7.5 percent tax on advertising expenditures.
“It is abusive to force the industrialists to denounce their own products,” argued one lawmaker (link in French). “We need messages of public health, but also responsibility from parents and teachers.” Others pointed out that the tax will only be passed on to consumers. C’est la vie. We guess the French school children will have to say au revoir to many of their favorite foods, and bonjour to organic bean sprouts and tofurkey.
While vending machine regulations are nothing new for American schools, taxes on food advertising haven’t reached this side of the Atlantic — yet. Leading the charge for this zany idea is the American Obesity Association (AOA), which recently took credit for Medicare’s decision to cover anti-obesity treatments and sees fat taxes as the next step in their battle of the bulge. Among AOA’s many misguided ideas is a tax on food marketing similar to the French mandate.