Govt’s drive for healthier population

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry is hoping the introduction of the sugar tax will see “effects” on the health of Malaysians in a short period of time but cautions that this will also depend on people changing their behaviour.

In a statement, the ministry said it believes that taxing sugar-sweetened beverages may reduce the sale of those beverages.

This would increase the demand for healthier beverages such as plain or mineral water, and “definitely reduce” the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among Malaysians, it added.

Malaysians in general are becoming more aware of lifestyles that contribute to good health, the statement said.

“Unfortunately, most of them do not translate their knowledge into action. This has been proven by the increasing prevalence of obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension among Malaysians,” said the ministry’s Nutrition Division in an email to The Star recently.

As such, the ministry said it would continue its educational and promotional activities to encourage people to lead a healthy lifestyle.

These include organising educational and promotional activities at health facilities, government and non-governmental agencies, institutions such as schools and child care centres.

Other venues include rest and recreational areas (RnR) along the highways, nutrition information centres and healthy community kitchens.

“Healthy lifestyle messages are also being disseminated through mass and social media,” said the ministry.

However, it said it had no plans to introduce other taxes similar to the sugar tax.

In 2013, the then Barisan Nasional government removed the subsidy on sugar and the Health Minister at that time Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam was quoted as saying that it had no “effect” on the consumption of sugar among Malaysians.

Other initiatives include providing healthy meals during meetings at workplaces.

The ministry said caterers and food handlers would be trained to increase their knowledge and skills in preparing healthy meals for their customers.

The ministry said it would also continue to empower consumers through its smartphone application “MyNutridiari2” as well as other promotional activities aimed at encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables.

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