Drowning in pop

Since the government abolished the tax on soft drinks, Danes are guzzling them like never before

The Danish consumption of soft drinks increased by 38 million litres last year.

According to figures from the brewers' association Bryggeriforeningen, that adds up to every man, woman and child in the country drinking 20 more cans of soda than in 2013. For those drinking the normal ranges opposed to the sugar-free alternatives, the consequences can be severe.

“Soft drinks are the place where we have the strongest evidence that increased consumption leads to increased obesity,” a professor of child nutrition at the University of Copenhagen, Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, told DR Nyheder. “Liquid sugar is the worst.”

Empty calories and empty coffers
The government’s efforts to encourage Danes to buy soda pop at home by cutting taxes on the beverages seems to have failed. The stores across the border have simply lowered their prices, which means the state coffers are losing out on the tax revenue.

“More children and adolescents will be overweight,” Morten Grønbæk, the head of Statens Institut for Folkesundhed, the institute for public health, told DR. “Soft drinks are filled with empty calories that do not fill you up, so you drink and eat more.”

Health experts agreed that children are particularly at risk of becoming obese if they become accustomed to drinking soda too often

Bad habits are hard to break
“Many of our habits are formed early in life,” said Mette Rasmussen from Statens Institut for Folkesundhed. “If it is normal during his childhood for a child to drink a lot of soda, there is a high probability that they will continue as an adult.”

Rasmussen said that children who become obese at a young age will have trouble shedding the weight when they get older.

READ MORE: Doctors warn about effects of sugar-free soft drinks

Soft drinks have been about 1.60 kroner less expensive per litre in Danish stores since the soft drink tax was abolished in January of last year. The plan was that Danes would buy soft drinks at home, rather than crossing the border to get lower prices.

A failed policy
Evidence suggests that it has not worked out that way. Cross-border sales have either remained the same or even increased slightly, and the increase in consumption has not made up for the revenue lost to the treasury by cutting the tax.

Hanne Skov, a consultant at Hjerteforeningen, the heart foundation, said that the government’s plan has been a failure.

“The idea behind dropping the tax was to win the soft drink trade back to Danish shops and thus create jobs,” Skov told DR Nyheder. “From what we have seen, that has not happened.”