EU health commissioner says Lithuanian sugar tax should be coordinated among Baltics

Published: 07/31/2017, 4:39:18 PM

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis has welcomed efforts to cut sugar consumption levels, suggesting that the sugar tax initiative proposed in Lithuania should be coordinated with Poland and the remaining Baltic states, according to the Baltic News Service.

"There are countries that cooperate and efficiently introduce the tax, there are countries that have introduced it and later recalled it, there are countries that introduce it only on certain products, but the tendency is that the introduction of the tax is securing more and more support amid high obesity numbers, especially among children," Andriukaitis told BNS.

In Lithuania, economists and politicians have different opinions regarding the possible benefits of additional taxes on sugar, but Lithuanian Minister of Health Aurelijus Veryga has emphasized that it is still an idea without any solutions. According to Veryga, experts are analyzing other countries' experiences as well as speaking to businesses and asking them to voluntary reduce sugar and salt levels in certain product categories.

The commissioner said that additional taxes on sugar would be welcome, however they would require extremely accurate calculations of the consequences under general market conditions.

"The Commission is positive about efforts to regulate risk facors, including sugar, by means of tax levers, however it is crucial to consider whether they may have any regional consequences," Andriukaitis stressed. "As products are purchased in neighboring countries, I would welcome joint efforts by Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland to impose a tax on sugar."

On July 3, President Kersti Kaljulaid did not proclaim a law passed 52-37 by the Riigikogu on June 19 which would have introduced a tax on sweetened drinks.

The president based her decision to veto the law, which would have taxed all sweetened drinks containing more than five grams of sugar per 100 milliliters, on an exemption granted to listed shipper Tallink which would have allowed them to continue selling sweetened drinks on its ships without paying additional taxes.

"I am in favor of the goal set with the so-called sugar tax to guide the people of Estonia, and first and foremost children and youth, to consume less sugar and thereby decrease health damage caused by the excessive consumption of sugar," Kaljulaid explained in a press release at the time. "Nevertheless, I will hereby leave the sugar tax law unproclaimed as my standpoint is that it is not in accordance with the principle of equal treatment set out in the twelfth paragraph of the Constitution."