The Knesset Finance Committee approved a tax on sweetened drinks on Tuesday that will apply to nearly all drinks – sugared drinks, diet drinks and even natural juices.
For sugared drinks, the tax will be one shekel ($0.32) per liter, which will be levied on any drink with more than five grams of sugar per 100 milliliters. For diet drinks and fresh-squeezed natural juices, the tax will be 0.70 shekels per liter.
But Finance Committee chairman Alex Kushnir (Yisrael Beiteinu) said the panel decided to exempt natural grape juice, which many Jews use for ritual purposes. It also exempted lemon juice.
The tax will go into effect in January and is expected to earn the state 380 million shekels a year if consumers’ habits don’t change.
The declared goal is to reduce Israelis’ heavy consumption of sweetened drinks, which contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, artery disease and cavities, and urge them to switch to water. Drinks account for more than 60 percent of Israelis’ excess sugar consumption.
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Kushnir said at Tuesday’s meeting that the Finance Ministry also agreed to add 40 million shekels to a planned government campaign to reduce sugar consumption, on top of the 80 million shekels already budgeted.
Because the tax increases with the size of the bottle, it will be especially felt by purchasers of family-sized drinks. A 1.5-liter bottle of either regular Coca-Cola or Coca-Cola Zero, for instance, currently costs 6.90 shekels at Shufersal supermarket. The prices will now rise to 8.70 shekels and 8.15 shekels, respectively, which constitute increases of 26 and 18 percent.
For 330-milliliter cans, in contrast, the increase will be much smaller – just 0.40 shekels, or seven percent, for sugared drinks and 0.30 shekels for diet drinks.