Monday, August 11, 2014

Russia to Tax Sugary Drinks to 'Make the Nation Healthier'

The Communist Party lawmakers in Russia are to introduce a bill to tax sugary drinks according to the calorie content, “to make the nation healthier” Russian media reported a few days ago. This comes in the backdrop of a “battle of sanctions” imposed by the Western countries and Russia on each other.

Interestingly, this legislation is said to be similar to a motion initiated by some members of the US Congress some days ago. US lawmakers have been discussing such a move for several years. Several states and other localities, including New York City, have initiated controls of sugary drink consumption with varying degrees of success. They have been alarmed by the high sugar content in soda drinks.

Recent years have seen some backlash on soft drinks which some studies have blamed for obesity, especially in children, due to its high calorie content. In January this year, Mexico imposed a tax on sugary drinks. One third of the people in that country are obese and nearly 15 percent suffer from diabetes.

While studies have shown a relationship between sugary soft drinks and obesity, it is still too early to conclusively prove that there is a relation between these taxes and the health of the people. However, it is expected that consumption will go down due to increased prices, thereby lowering the sugar intake.

Speaking to The Nation, Consultant Cardiologist and Member of the Expert Committee on Non-Communicable Diseases at Sri Lanka Medical Association Dr. Jayanthimala Jayawardena stated that high sugar content in these drinks is a bigger problem in Western countries than in countries like Sri Lanka since the consumption of soft drinks is very high even among common people in those countries. In Sri Lanka, only the high income class shows a high amount of consumption of soft drinks. A tax will not affect them much, Dr. Jayawardena pointed out.

Most Sri Lankans consume water and beverages such as tea, Dr. Jayawardena also said. However, they consume a lot of sugar with tea. While manual workers need a considerable amount of calories, this practice is not healthy for others. Therefore, she said that a proper health awareness program on the consumption of sugar and sugary drinks should be initiated.

Originally published in: 'The Nation' Aug 10, 2014. (article)

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