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Taxing sugar in Singapore could be challenging

18 Aug 2017
 
Image by Ramon FVelasquez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Singapore has the second highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations, with more than 10 per cent of Singaporeans affected by the disease. Latest projections say the figure could balloon if nothing is done to address its causes, including consuming too much sugar. Currently, Singaporeans consume an average of 12 teaspoons of sugar daily, more than twice the international recommendation of 5 teaspoons a day.

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged countries to tax sugary drinks, which could lower consumption and reduce obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and in turn save lives and reduce healthcare costs.

However, implementing a sugar tax in Singapore could be challenging, cautioned Dean, Professor Chia Kee Seng, and careful consideration must be taken on what exactly will be levied. He illustrated that should an individual choose to cut down on sugar sweetened sodas and desserts, he/she may end up compensating it with other kinds of food items, which may result in the same—if not more—caloric and sugar intake, adding a new dimension of complexity to the issue.

He added that while it may be difficult to attribute the effectiveness of reducing sugar intake to a single policy, implementing a sugar tax “does send a very strong message … that this is a serious problem that we are tackling”.

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