Seychelles eyes taxing sugary drinks in 2019 to fight rising obesity
Tax on sugary drinks is one of the measures that Seychelles need to adopt as advocated by the World Health Organisation. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency)
In an effort to counter rising obesity in Seychelles, the government plans to begin taxing sugary drinks in the island nation in 2019 as a way to reduce illnesses associated with high sugar intake. The increased tax rates have not yet been set.
For the past 20 years, the level of obesity in Seychelles has increased rapidly, said the programme manager of the cardiovascular unit at Seychelles Hospital, Barathi Biswanathan.
“Based on our last study, we found out that almost half of the children in our population are over-consuming sugar beverages,” says Biswanathan.
To fight the increase in obesity, Seychelles has adopted a non-communicable disease strategy aimed at reducing the risk associated with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and obesity.
Biswanathan noted that many children are drinking more than a packet of juice a day. A packet contains more than five teaspoons of sugar. She said that these drinks do not have any nutritional value, are very addictive and gives the body a lot of unneeded calories.
|Many children in Seychelles are drinking more than a packet of juice a day. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
The tax on sugary drinks is one of the measures that Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, need to adopt as advocated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2016.
In October 2016, WHO urged countries to start taxing sugary beverages as they fight an obesity epidemic, pointing to evidence that price hikes can dramatically reduce consumption. This came as the world seeks to bring down whopping obesity rates, with one in three adults overweight.
While WHO is advocating a 20 percent price hike in sugary drinks, Biswanathan said the Ministry of Health is still in discussion with the Ministry of Finance to establish a percentage tax system.
Biswanathan said that the tax will focus on items such as lemonade and juice with added sugar.
Seychelles is not the first country to come up with a tax on the sugary product. In early 2014, Mexico introduced a tax on sugary drinks, which led to a 10 percent price hike.
“The sugary tax in Mexico has resulted in people switching to alternative healthy drinks like water and fresh juice,” says Biswanathan.
Local entrepreneurs like Keryl Bristol has ventured into the production of fresh local juice in a bid to promote a healthier lifestyle in the island nation through her company called Tropical Juices Seychelles.
Bristol started producing in February, and said she did so after noticing that “the local market has been saturated with imported juices laden with sugar and preservatives.”
SNA spoke to a Seychellois bodybuilder, Rodney Henriette, who said that his sport depends on a lot of calorie uptake and the sugar tax must be applied in a way that should not affect their consumption.