In its war against diabetes, Singapore could be the first country in the world to outlaw sugary drinks

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Singapore’s war on diabetes just got real, son. The country’s Ministry of Health (MOH) is now considering to drastically cut down everyone’s intake of sugar by way of higher taxes on high-sugar packaged drinks, banning all ads involving sweetened beverages, and — gasp — a total ban on them.

It’s a sign that the government is taking obesity and diabetes as seriously as they’re taking on tobacco. After all, Singapore could be the first country in the world to outlaw Coke sodas.

MOH reaffirmed its commitment to its war on diabetes yesterday, reminding the public that Singapore has the highest prevalence of diabetes among developed nations, with nearly one in nine people diagnosed with the condition.

“The number of Singapore residents with diabetes is projected to reach one million by 2050, if nothing is done to curb the rising trend,” stated MOH in a press release. “Diabetes is currently the second leading cause of ill health in Singapore.”

As part of its efforts, MOH is now seeking public views on four possible measures it has narrowed down, and all of them target pre-packaged sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, energy drinks, juices and yoghurt drinks.

The four measures:

Mandatory Front-of-Pack nutrition labels

Essentially, making it a requirement to slap a big, conspicuous nutrition label on beverages so consumers can really identify which drinks are high in sugar.

“Overseas experience has also shown that adoption of such labels is slow and biased towards healthier products when implemented on a voluntary basis.”

Advertising regulations

Enacting laws restricting advertisements of unhealthy, high-sugar drinks in the mass media, including online channels, on TV, and other platforms. The option to completely ban the advertising of sweet drinks across all mass media channels is also on the table.

“Studies have found that exposure to advertisements of less healthy food and drinks influences choice and induces consumption, especially among children.”

Excise duty

Introduce an excise duty on manufactures and importers of such drinks to encourage the industry to reformulate and reduce the sugar content in products. In other words, making sugary drinks way more expensive so we’d be discouraged to purchase ‘em.

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

Total ban

The ultimate last resort, a scorched earth policy in the war against diabetes. The introduction of a nationwide ban on the sale of higher-sugar pre-packaged drinks to stop citizens from harming themselves.

As much as the total ban may be unlikely and Very Totalitarian, it would be fun to see a black market for Coke and Pepsi pop up here.

“These measures aim to accelerate industry reformulation to reduce sugar levels in pre-packaged sugar-sweetened beverages, and empower Singaporeans to make informed and healthier choices,” wrote MOH.

More details on the measures as well as feedback forms can be found on the REACH website.

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