Nearly 4 in 10 polled favour ban on pre-packed high-sugar drinks

PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

As the authorities mull over measures to help people cut their sugar intake, what do Singaporeans think is the best way to curb a sweet tooth?

An online poll of Straits Times readers showed a total ban on pre-packed high-sugar drinks was the top pick.

This was among four measures mooted by the Ministry of Health (MOH), and nearly 40 per cent (719 people) of about 1,900 people polled chose it.

The poll began on Tuesday evening after MOH and the Health Promotion Board began a public consultation exercise on ways to curtail the consumption of sugary drinks. These include 3-in-1 mixes, cordials, yogurt drinks, fruit juices and soft drinks.

These drinks account for more than half the 12 teaspoons of sugar that people here take each day on average.

And one in four packaged sweetened beverages contains 5.5 teaspoons of sugar or more.

The poll showed that the second most popular measure was imposing mandatory front-of-pack labelling on high-sugar drinks.

As of 4pm yesterday, about a third of readers, or 676 people, said it was the way to go.

  • 18%-26% Risk of a person getting diabetes increases by this much with every 250ml of sugar-sweetened beverage consumed daily, according to the Ministry of Health.

    40% Nearly this percentage of 1,900 Straits Times readers polled think the best way to curb a sweet tooth is to have a total ban on pre-packed high-sugar drinks, which is among the four measures mooted by the Ministry of Health.

While Singapore has the Healthier Choice symbol to help consumers identify lower-sugar products, this is voluntary and does not identify the range of less healthy sugared beverages.

The third choice of introducing a tax on sweet pre-packed drinks, which would primarily affect manufacturers and importers, was chosen by 310 people.

A tax could coax the industry to lower the sugar content of products, similar to the excise duty imposed in Britain, Mexico and some US cities, as well as in regional countries such as Brunei and Thailand.

The least popular option, with 233 votes, was banning advertisements on all platforms, such as on buses or social media.

 
 
 
 

Existing guidelines only limit advertising during specific time periods on TV and media channels.

Facebook user Travis Lin, however, said consumer education is key. "Educate people so that they can make informed decisions. I don't drink any sugary drinks or even fruit juice. That is my choice."

He added: "Nobody should be forced to make that same choice. People should be informed and have the liberty to choose what they want to drink."

Mr S.P. Low, an engineering company manager, said a total ban on high-sugar drinks is too extreme.

People should be given a choice of a range of drinks of various sugar levels, added the 42-year-old. "Ultimately, you should let the consumer choose what he wants."

Agreeing, Facebook user Christina Lau urged the Government to consider making flavoured sparkling water more accessible, like in European countries.

"This helps people who like fizzy drinks to cut down on the sugar intake by having sparkling water instead of a soft drink," she said.

MOH said every 250ml of sugar-sweetened beverage consumed daily raises a person's risk of getting diabetes by 18 per cent to 26 per cent.

Facebook user Illyanna Vee prefers a tax over a complete ban. "Tax (it) as a sign of disapproval, but don't take away an individual's choices. Unlike smoking or alcohol, drinking sugary drinks hurts no one but the individual," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2018, with the headline 'Nearly 4 in 10 polled favour ban on pre-packed high-sugar drinks'. Print Edition | Subscribe