As part of the 2016 budget, the South African Treasury has decided to tax sugary drinks. But the taxation of sugar-sweetened drinks will start in 2017 only. It is believed that the levying of taxes will help minimize the growing epidemic of oral health problems and non-communicable diseases. Local as well as international experiences have proven that taxing sugary drinks, tobacco and alcohol can positively influence consumer behavior.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that children and adults should reduce their consumption of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. An additional reduction of 5% of 25 grams (or 6 tsps per day) will mean additional health benefits. A 330ml can of Coca Cola contains 8 teaspoons of sugar. Consuming one can in one day will fulfill the recommended intake of sugar for that day.
Health recommendation by different organizations
The director-general of WHO has set up the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. The Commission has observed that taxing sugary drinks will be extremely crucial in the reduction of childhood obesity.
The South African Department of Health’s Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Obesity 2015-2020 will be boosted by the introduction of taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks. Its Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-17 will also benefit from this.
Researches and predictions
A research conducted at the University of the Witwatersrand has revealed that a 20% tax on sugary drinks can reduce intake of sugars by 3.8% in men and 2.4% in women. It could also mean that there will be a decrease of obese people by 220,000. It is an estimate of the first three years only.
The same study has also reported that if taxes are not imposed, it would mean a rise of 2.4% in consumption of sugary drinks every year. The instances of obesity will increase by 16% among the low income group by the end of 2017. 20% of this increase would be due to the consumption of sugary drinks.
The WHO has estimated that a high BMI is responsible for 2% to 7% of global healthcare expenditures. 20% of all these expenditures are due to treating obesity. Treatment of other related diseases of obesity such as heart diseases and type II diabetes are also part of this expenditure. The Department of Health does not have records about the impact of obesity on South Africa’s economy.