A sign that reads, "Fountain soda $1.50. Free refills!"

Photo courtesy of
Mike Mozart at Flickr Creative Commons.

Bad news for soda lovers in France: unlimited refills have been banned in an effort to reduce obesity.

While France’s obesity rate is still below the EU average (15.3% to 15.9% respectively) the country has seen an increase in the number of obese and overweight people, causing alarm to both health officials and citizens alike. In 2014, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that one in eight adults are obese, while 40% of the country is considered overweight in some capacity (obesity included).

This led to the government adopting a measure in April 2015 to ban all refills on sugary drinks, which was added to the Health Act of January 2016 and implemented this week. This law targets both soda and sports drinks with added sugar and sweeteners.

France’s Health Minister Marisol Touraine has been leading the way in curbing overconsumption, which she considers a major problem affecting children and teens.

“This habit is common in other countries and it is increasingly taking hold in France,” she told the government two years ago. “I understand it can be attractive for young people who are offered unlimited sugary drinks, which contain an excessive amount of sugar or sweeteners.”

Obesity is also becoming more common across the European Union, which surprises few but startles many. According to reports, a third of European children are overweight or obese. This is mainly the reason the World Health Organization (WHO) is now recommending that countries tax soft drinks and other flavored beverages, something France has been doing since 2012. In the United Kingdom, where obesity has hit more than 20% of the adult population, a soda tax will begin in 2018.

France certainly isn’t new to fat restrictions. In 2004, the country banned schools from selling soft drinks in vending machines, and in 2011 completely banned ketchup from schools.