After previous attempts led to lukewarm results, the Directorate of Health is taking another stab at a sugar tax, which could be at 20% or higher.
Calls for a sugar tax go way back. According to a Directorate of Health report from 2013, about 21% of adult Icelanders have a BMI of 30 or greater, and 5% of children are overweight. This, among other findings, the Directorate says, leads them to the conclusion that greater measures need to be taken to get Icelanders to eat healthier. A higher tax on foods high in sugar—such as candy and soft drinks—has been one proposed way to do that.
RÚV reports that the Directorate is still of this mind, and believe that more extreme measures than previously taken need to be enacted.
“The last time this was tried, the price of soft drinks only went up by about 5 ISK per litre, while at the same time the price of chocolate decreased,” assistant director Kjartan Hreinn Njálsson told reporters. “Now we are proposing a 20% increase, which consumers would actually feel the effects of, while the 5% hike did not in any way go far enough.”
Not everyone is on board with the idea. Representatives of business managers, for one, believe that the current system—wherein all foodstuffs are taxed the same—would be too disturbed by creating a separate tax category for sugary foods. They also raised more philosophical questions, such as whether the government can even judge what counts as “healthy” food and what does not.
All this said, these plans are still in the initial thumbnail-sketch phases of implementation. There is as yet no plan to introduce a sugar tax in the immediate future.
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