Sugar tax could help more Filipinos live longer

MANILA • The Philippines could avert 24,000 premature deaths linked to diseases such as diabetes, stroke and heart failure in the next two decades, following its adoption of taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The taxes levied this year could cut consumption and avoid nearly 6,000 deaths related to diabetes, 8,000 from stroke and more than 10,000 from heart diseases over 20 years, a WHO study showed. "The new sugar-sweetened beverage tax may help reduce obesity-related premature deaths and improve financial well-being in the Philippines," the researchers said on Wednesday.

The taxes could yield healthcare savings of about US$627 million (S$860 million) and annual revenue of US$813 million, they added.

The high consumption of colas was the main driver of obesity, swelling the burden of non-communicable diseases, the WHO said.

Retail prices of sugar-sweetened beverages have risen as much as 13 per cent after the Philippines imposed the taxes in January, joining 27 countries with similar levies.

In 2013, 31 per cent of the total Philippine adult population of 56.3 million was overweight, with the proportion of overweight youth nearly doubling to 8.3 per cent from close to 5 per cent within just a decade, the WHO said.

Countries such as Britain, Belgium and Mexico have adopted, or are about to adopt, similar taxes, although Scandinavian nations have used them for years. A study last year on the impact of Mexico's tax on sugary drinks showed it cut purchases by more than 5 per cent in the first year.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2018, with the headline 'Sugar tax could help more Filipinos live longer'. Print Edition | Subscribe