More clout for tax on sugary drinks

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

Johannesburg. - A suggested tax on sugar sweetened beverages has been given more credence in a research paper by academics from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

The paper, lead authored by Mercy Manyema, measures the effect of a 20% tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) on the prevalence of obesity among adults in South Africa.

It found that taxing SSBs could impact the burden of obesity in South Africa, particularly in young adults, as one component of a multi-faceted effort to prevent obesity.

By instituting a 20% tax, in other words a 20% price increase per unit of SSB, it is predicted to reduce energy intake by about 36 kilojoules per day, resulting in a 3.8% reduction in obesity in men and a 2.4% reduction in obesity in women, translating in a decrease of more than 220 000 obese adults in South Africa, according to the paper.

"It is the responsibility of the government to protect the health of its population. One way of doing so is through "nudging" people to make healthier and more sustainable choices," said Manyema, a researcher from PricelessSA.

South Africans have become more obese over the last 30 years and SA is now considered the most obese country in sub-Saharan Africa.

Over half of the country's adults are now overweight and obese. This includes 42% of women and 13% of men who are obese.

The paper follows a recommendation by Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, on the need to regulate foods high in sugar in order to address obesity and its related diseases.

The South African National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-2017 lists taxes on foods high in sugar as one potential "best buy" for addressing diet and obesity.

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