Soft-Drink Industry: Phew (At Least For Now)! Italian Special Tax Proposal Gets A Stop At The Eleventh Hour


Article by Avv. Felix Hofer1

According to a recent study conducted by the Scuola Superiore di S. Anna in Pisa2, by year 2025 twenty million Italians are likely to suffer from obesity and nutritional disorder. The social costs necessary for facing side effects linked to diseases deriving from nutritional disorder are deemed to result around 30 million Euros (20% of public spending).

While the picture of such future development appears to be extremely worrying, even the current situation is raising serious concern: five million Italians (approximately 10% of the entire population) suffering from obesity cause social costs in the range of 6,7% of global public healthcare spending.

In addition, the results of multiple surveys3, performed between 1995 and 2005 (with its focus on childhood overweight) and collected in a master database, have shown that "the highest prevalence of overweight or obesity was detected among Italian children" and also that "Italian children aged 9-11 years had higher values for anthropometric variables (for example, waist circumference) than the other children".

Confronted with such – rather impressive – results of scientific research, the Italian Department of Public Health has repeatedly evaluated introducing a special tax on junk food and other food products high in salt and sugar as well as soft drinks and sweets in order to force Italians (and especially young people) to healthier nutritional habits. Such plans were obviously always strongly opposed by the industry sectors addressed by the new tax.

This summer – in the context of the spending review efforts of the Italian Government – the moment appeared to be right for coming up with a special tax as all Departments had been called to either cutting costs or indicating new financial resources. To the purpose in July and August all Departments worked on new measures suitable to meet the purposes of the spending review.

The Department of Public Health proposed a new tax both, on soft drinks as well as on super-alcoholic beverages, meant to remain in force for a three years period and deemed to collect about 600 million Euros.

In the Department's intentions producers of soft-drinks and super-alcoholics should be called to pay respectively Euro 7,16 and Euro 50,00 for each 100 litres of product made available on the market. The return of such taxation would be allocated in the area of public health assistance.

The proposal gave rise to heavy criticism and an intense...

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