THE Malaysia Consumers Movement (MCM) applauds the government’s decision to implement a sugar tax beginning July this year. As reported, a 40 sen per litre tax would be imposed on soft drinks, flavoured and other non-alcoholic beverages with more than 5g of sugar or sugar-based sweetener per 100ml. A 40 sen per litre tax will be imposed on juice or vegetable-based drinks with more than 12g of sugar per 100ml.
Currently, there are over 20 countries that have implemented sugar tax and many have reported positive results in achieving the objective of controlling excessive sugar consumption.
Consumers are generally unhappy with the implementation of sugar tax, as it tends to increase the price of sugary drinks and other products. But the question that needs to be answered is if this unhappiness is justified!
Let us not forget that, according to recent health reports, there are currently some 3.6 million Malaysians suffering from diabetes, the highest rate of incidence in Asia and one of the highest in the world.
Seven million Malaysian adults are likely to have diabetes by 2025, a worrying trend that will see diabetes prevalence of 31.3% for adults aged 18 years and above.
It has also been reported that Malaysia is Asia’s fattest country with approximately half of the population being overweight or obese.
These statistics should be worrying enough for us to warrant an immediate change in our own lifestyle habits and consumption patterns, which would necessarily include reducing our sugar intake.
The government can implement any form of action but nothing will change if we do not take charge of our own health and well-being.
Even the manufacturers should acknowledge these health concerns and help to curb this critical problem by reformulating their product recipes and not simply pass the tax on to their customers.
Manufacturers must definitely avoid maintaining prices or cleverly reformulating their package sizes and quantity. This could be construed as an act of sabotage.
While the MCM acknowledges the Health Ministry’s efforts in rolling out public awareness programmes and campaigns throughout the nation on the hazards of high sugar consumption, we are also of the opinion that these awareness programmes could be implemented more strategically, beginning at primary school.
Young consumers must be trained to say no to sugary food products. Merely putting up gruesome pictures of severe causes of diabetes at hospitals may be too late.
MCM hopes that there is no further postponement of implementation of the sugar tax in Malaysia.
DARSHAN SINGH DHILLON
Malaysia Consumers Movement