Singapore considers ban, tax on high-sugar drinks to tackle diabetes

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MoH) and Health Promotion Board are contemplating banning the sale of higher-sugar pre-packaged drinks or introducing a sugar tax in a bid to curb high sugar intake among people.

The Ministry indicated that the move targets to control lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity in the country.

MOH and the Health Promotion Board are seeking feedback on four proposed measures to cut sugar intake from drinks, which include dry three-in-one mixes, cordials, yogurt drinks, fruit juices and soda drinks.

The measures include a total ban on pre-packed high-sugar drinks, single or tiered taxes on high-sugar drinks, mandatory front-of-pack labelling on sugar/nutrition content.

Another consideration is the ban on advertisements for high-sugar drinks on all platforms, including social media and buses.

The drinks account for a lot of sugar that people take on a daily basis given that many packaged sweetened beverages are loaded with sugar, with one in four containing 5.5 teaspoons of sugar or more.

“The objective of imposing duties on SSBs, if introduced, is not for revenue generation, but to shape the behaviour of manufacturers and consumers.

Duties on (sugar-sweetened beverages) SSBs aim to encourage manufacturers to reformulate their products and to encourage consumers to choose healthier drinks that are lower in sugar content or drink plain water,” said the Ministry of Health in a statement.

The move will make Singapore the first country in the world to implement such a measure.

In Singapore, sale of medium-to-high-sugar drinks in schools and on government premises is not allowed and companies deliberately refrain from advertising high-sugar drinks to children.

There are also voluntary Healthier Choice Symbol that has been put in place to identify healthier drinks.

MOH said every 250ml of sugar-sweetened beverage daily raises a person’s risk of getting diabetes by 18% to 26%.

According to it, Singaporeans are consuming on average twelve teaspoons (or 60g) of sugar daily which comes majorly from sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), of which pre-packaged SSBs contribute 64% of this intake.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on the other hand recommends 25g of sugar intake per day, enough for health benefits.

Globally, many countries are moving to combat diabetes and obesity through excise duties and among them include Brunei, Thailand, Mexico, the UK, and the US.

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