Higher taxes on sugary drinks urged to prevent diabetes among Filipinos

A pediatrics professor from the University of California in San Francisco urged the Philippine government to introduce a new taxing scheme for sugary drinks as a way to reduce diabetes in Filipinos.

Dr. Robert Lustig said the collection from the sugary drinks can be used as a subsidy for drinking water.

“Therefore, people will be able to pay less for water and move toward water, which is good for them as opposed to sugar-based soda, which is bad for them. People will nudge toward water and away from soda because it is expensive,” Lustig said in an interview with the BusinessMirror.

“The beverage makers wouldn’t care because they are the one also making the water. So, they will sell more water and the grocery stores will still make money. Because what do they care? Sales,” Lustig added.

Soft drinks, soda, flavored-carbonated or non-carbonated beverages, fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweetened tea, coffee drinks, and energy drinks will be among the list of beverages included in the comprehensive tax-reform. Each of these drinks will be taxed P10 per liter.

Karl T. Chua, Department of Finance undersecretary, said the tax will help Filipinos switch to a healthier lifestyle and for food companies to come up with healthier food and alternatives.

“Because this is a health measure, the objective really is to reduce consumption. Studies have shown that a 20-percent increase in price is sufficient or necessary to reduce significantly that consumption,” Chua said.

Sweden, Denmark, and Norway have levied the scheme to control the increasing number of alcoholics in their countries.

“I think it would be a good idea, so that would be my suggestion,” Lustig said. “I think it could [work] for [the Philippines] if the government supports it. I think it is very doable.”

Last year, the Philippines was considered as a “diabetes hotspot” with an estimated 7.3 million cases according to the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism (PSEDM). PSEDM forecasted the number to jump to 12 million by 2040.

SOURCES: 1, 2, 3, 4