Measures must be taken to address obesity‚ including sugar tax
TMG Digital | 2017-05-17 19:35:40.0
Research shows one or more sweetened drinks a day would cause a 26% greater risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Image by: ISTOCK
The Healthy Living Alliance (Heala) has expressed concern at the high levels of obesity in the country and is supporting the move for sugar tax.
Earlier this week‚ Statistics SA released its 2016 Demographic and Health Survey which showed that two thirds of South African women are overweight or obese.
Based on the body-mass index (BMI)‚ 68% of South African women fall into the overweight or obese category‚ as opposed to the majority of men (59%) who are inside the normal range.
The situation mirrors women’s increased blood pressure levels: nearly half (46%) of women participating in the research had hypertension – a condition frequently associated with being overweight or obese. Both are also major factors in developing diabetes‚ heart attacks and other medical conditions‚ the survey showed.
“Heala says that this is an emergency and that measures to tackle it need to include a rapid introduction of a tax on sugary drinks.
Heala highlights that as South African adults‚ and particularly women‚ suffer increasingly through cardiovascular conditions and obesity‚ so the sugary drinks industry gains sales‚” said Heala coordinator Tracey Malawana.
She said South Africans are among the top 10 consumers of soft drinks in the world and the demand is increasing at an average rate of 3.6% per year.
“Tackling obesity should be a national health priority. While there is no silver bullet that will slim down the nation‚ cutting sugar consumption is a non-negotiable public health measure. Sugary drinks are a major contributor to excessive sugar intake.”
The Stats SA findings do not come as a surprise and confirm the data that indicate that South Africa has the highest obesity rates in Africa‚ Malawana added.
She said together with diabetes‚ strokes‚ heart disease and some cancers‚ obesity causes one in three deaths among South Africans under the age of 60.
“We have a choice. We can avoid the damaging impact of sugary drinks. It’s a win-win if we refuse to pay the tax by consuming healthier drinks. Our pockets and health both benefit‚” concluded Malawana.
In February former finance minister Pravin Gordhan reaffirmed government’s plans to go ahead with a tax on sugary beverages. The National Treasury has since refined the proposed tax‚ offering some concessions after public hearings and discussions with affected industries.
Health advocates have welcomed the continued commitment to the tax‚ but argued that the refinements may not generate as extensive a set of health benefits as initially hoped for.
Although the tax will raise revenue‚ the level of increase is unknown but the tax is designed as a measure to curb wider costs to South Africa’s healthcare system.