Prepared Foods August 23, 2004 enewsletter

Soft drink and junk food vending machines are getting kicked out of French schools as part of a broad public health bill passed by parliament to combat rising obesity among youths.

The ban on vending machines will take effect for the school term beginning September 2005.

In addition, sweetened alcoholic beverages that appeal to youth will be hit by a "dissuasive" tax, lawmakers said. France's legal drinking age is 16.

Snack food and soft drink manufacturers will have the option of including health warnings on televised advertisements or paying a tax that amounts to 1.5% of their ad budget.

The tax is projected to reap more than $20 million a year, with the money going to awareness campaigns on healthy eating.

French youths are getting steadily plumper, with between 16% and 19% considered obese.