Romania may be the first country to introduce a tax on junk food as early as March of this year, in an effort to fight obesity and increase the level of funding for its crisis-hit health system, Romanian authorities announced on Tuesday.
One in four Romanians suffers from obesity with diet-related diseases increasingly becoming a problem among the younger population. The country’s public health system suffers from chronic lack of funding with authorities warning that 2010 may see problems in financing some medical infrastructure and medicine.
“We intend to introduce a tax on fast food, soft drinks and candies in order to support national health programs,” Health Minister Attila Cseke announced during a press conference in Bucharest. Full details of the tax still need to be developed, but it is expected that a special nutrition commission at the ministry level will be in charge of designing the tax. If approved, the levy would apply to producers of fast-food products, certain snacks and crisps, confectionery and soft drinks, and is estimated to bring around one billion euros (1.45 billion dollars) to the ministry’s budget.
The announcement comes soon after Taiwan’s plans to become the first country to introduce a tax on junk food in an attempt to reduce obesity rates and encourage healthily eating. Such taxes have been considered in other countries, including France and Australia, but were not followed through due to concerns about the additional cost to consumers and the difficulty in coming up with a suitable scheme.