drinksThe war on fat is becoming a war on sugar, but what does it take to get people off fizzy drinks and juices that are loaded with the sweet stuff? New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposes a ban on super-sized sodas, France has slapped a tax on sweetened drinks and experts around the world would like their governments to do something similar. The worry is that excessive consumption of these drinks is fuelling obesity, diabetes and all kinds of health complications — and burdening health systems.

But maybe a little incentivising would help. In Auckland, New Zealand, millionaire businessman Tony Falkenstein hit upon the idea of making water drinking cool, by distributing rent-free water coolers to thousands of homes in a poorer part of the city and supplying families with filtered tap water at $1 a litre. The water is delivered to the door. And it’s working, he said in a current affairs programme last night. He reckons fizz consumption has fallen 60 per cent in homes that have a water cooler.

Falkenstein got the idea from bringing home a water cooler for his own kids. It makes it easy for the kids to get themselves a drink and they like press-button touch. It’s cool. OK, so their parents are paying for what they could get free (well, there’s the water rates) from the tap, but they would spend more, probably, on buying fizz from the supermarket or corner store. And while you would rather see the kids (and their parents) not needing to be seduced by gadgetry into doing what is simply healthy, it surely is better that they get a taste for water than remain stuck in bad habits.

I think Falkenstein is onto something. 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet