Experts Say That Proposed Soda Tax Should Cover All High-Sugar Foods
The government should focus on taxing all high-sugar foods if it is interested in combating obesity and other health problems, according to local experts. Limiting the tax to only soft drinks may drive consumers to alternative sources of sugar; which completely works against the goal of the tax.
Penang Institute’s Socio-economic and Statistics Programme said that a soda tax would be difficult to implement on outlets that prepare their own drinks. Adding that there are many other foods – like ice-cream and biscuits – that could serve as alternative sources of excessive sugar. Consumers may also switch to artificial sweeteners.
The group believes that the tax should be expanded to include all drinks where sugar is added.
This sentiment was echoed by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia. Which also called for an expanded sugar tax on all foods with high levels of sugar.
Some, however, believe that a soda tax will only have short term benefits. Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib says that the tax may be effective on younger consumers, but may have no effect on habitual drinkers.
Azrul cited studies conducted in Chile and Mexico (both countries with a soda tax) where consumer between the ages of 13 and 30 cut their intake by 80 percent. In comparison, older consumers didn’t change at all. Being less impacted by the increased prices and already having a strong preference to sugar.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently floated the idea that the government is considering a soda tax to reduce sugar intake among Malaysians. The proposed goal would be to combat the rising number of cases of obesity and diabetes. Such a tax has been in the works for several years now, with a plan to introduce an unhealthy food tax by 2020.