Public smoking ban plan
UN health body wants higher prices for soda
The UN’s health agency has recommended countries use tax to increase the price of sugary drinks like sodas, sport drinks and even fruit juices as a way to fight obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
The World Health Organisation ( WHO), in a statement timed for World Obesity Day yesterday, said the prevalence of obesity worldwide more than doubled between 1980 and 2014, when nearly 40 per cent of people globally were overweight.
In a 36-page report, WHO on obesity and fiscal policy also cited “strong evidence” that subsidies to reduced prices for fresh fruits and vegetables can help improve diets.
It said that tax policies that lead to a 20 per cent rise in the retail price of sugary drinks would result in a proportional reduction in consumption. Drawing on lessons from campaigns to fight tobacco use, WHO said imposing or increasing taxes on sugary drinks could help lower consumption of sugars, bringing health benefits and more income for governments such as to pay for health services. The health agency has long recommended that people keep intake of sugar to less than 10 per cent of their total energy needs. “Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes,” says Dr Douglas Bettcher, who heads WHO’s department for preventing non-communicable diseases.
“If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives.”
WHO officials say the US is no longer the leading consumer of sugarsweetened beverages – Chile and Mexico are now in front. They also noted rapid increase in consumption like China and sub-Saharan Africa. At least three in five adolescents in countries such as Chile, Argentina and Algeria consume soft drinks daily.
“Taxation policies can be a very important tool – just one tool among many – but a very important tool for the reduction of sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Dr Francesco Branca, who heads WHO’s Department for Nutrition and Health. He pointed to “pioneering” efforts by Michael Bloomberg, during his time as mayor of New York, and other US officials to reduce sugar consumption.
Temo Waqanivalu, coordinator of WHO’s department for the prevention of non-communicable diseases, said “discussion is ongoing” with companies behind such beverages on efforts to reduce sugar consumption. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is turning to another battle aside from illegal drugs – smoking. Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said she hopes the president can sign the draft executive order banning smoking in public nationwide before the end of the month. The department is pushing for the ban to start before the law providing for graphic health warnings on tobacco products is fully implemented on November 4, Ubial told a Senate budget hearing. Duterte ordered a 100 per cent smoke-free environment in public places similar to Davao, the southern city where he was formerly mayor, she added. Designated smoking areas are to be outdoors and away from the public, and provinces and towns will be asked to issue ordinances to enforce the smoking ban and set penalties. She also said e-cigarettes will be included in the ban.