Singapore mulls ban of advertisements for sugary drinks to curb diabetes

SINGAPORE – Singapore plans to implement a ban on advertisements of certain fizzy drinks and juices as part of a raft of measures to curb high diabetes rates associated with consumption of sugar.

As one of Asia’s biggest per capita consumers of sugar, Singapore ranks among countries with the highest rates of diabetes in the world, which has also been associated with its fast-ageing population – apart from high calorie consumption rates.

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The country has now moved to strengthen its efforts in checking the escalating rates and plans to impose a total ban on ads for packaged drinks containing high sugar content.

This will see Singapore become the first country in the world to implement a ban on ads for very high sugar drinks ahead of Mexico and Britain, which only restrict the time when advertisements for high-calorie food and drinks can be shown on media channels.

Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong said that the new measures will also require high-sugar drinks to bear health warnings on labels.

“We will introduce an advertising prohibition of product advertisements for the least healthy SSBs on all local mass media platforms, including broadcast, print, out-of-home and online channels,” the health ministry said in a statement.

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Each beverage will be assigned a summary grade based on its nutritional quality, where sugar content will be the main but not the only determinant. Factors like the amount of fat and trans-fat in the drink will also be taken into account. 

The label will apply to all pre-packaged sugar-sweetened beverages, including soft drinks, energy drinks, juices, malted drinks, flavoured milk and cultured milk drinks. 

According to the ministry, Singapore is also considering taxes on sugary drink makers and importers, and even a total ban on the sale of some beverages.

However, the timing of the new measures and exactly what will be affected are set to be announced next year, with implementation expected to take one to four years, according to a Bloomberg report.

Singapore’s health ministry said it would consult consumers, drink makers and the advertising industry in coming months over the measures.

World’s biggest beverage maker, The Coca-Cola Company, said it welcomed the plans and would work to reduce sugar levels in its drinks sold in Singapore highlighting that it foresees minimal impact on our portfolio from this announcement.

“We will continue to rethink many of our recipes in Singapore to reduce sugar, because while sugar in moderation is fine, we agree that too much of it is not good for anyone,” said Ahmed Yehia, country manager for Coca-Cola Singapore and Malaysia.

Singapore has also adopted other measures to improve the health of its citizens including compelling soft drink makers to reduce the sugar content sold in the city state.

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