The Israeli government is set to authorize a plan to slap Israelis with a special tax on junk food, in efforts to fight growing obesity rates, local media reported on Thursday.
According to the Health Ministry data, 37 percent of Israeli adults and 14 percent of Israeli youths are overweight; 15 percent of adults and seven percent of the youths are obese.
The ministry's official estimate put state spending on tackling obesity at 1.45 billion U.S. dollars.
The initiative for the governmental plan followed a survey conducted last year by the Gertner Institute, which deals with health policies. According to the poll, one third of the respondents supported taxing soft drinks and snacks.
The Israeli Tax Authority expressed its full support for the taxation plan.
"Other countries tax unhealthy foods, and the authority would like to examine the approach as a way of encouraging healthy eating," Eran Yaakov, deputy director general for finance and development at the tax authority told Ha'aretz.
However, Yaakov also charged that beyond taxation, the answer to the problem is proper education.
"It's all a matter of education, which needs to be promoted through the schools," he said.
Finland and Denmark already tax foods with high sugar levels, and Austria has implemented a similar tax on foods with saturated fat; France does the same with chocolate and candy.
Along with the planned tax, the ministry drafted regulations to require restaurants and cafes to label their menu items with a calorie count. The draft of the regulations will be passed for approval at the Knesset (parliament) Labor, Welfare and Health committee.