Wed | Dec 19, 2018

Ban on sugary drinks a first step - Other strategies needed, says psychologist

Published:Friday | June 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter

Dr Tracy McFarlane, social and health psychologist, is of the view that while the impending ban on sugary drinks in schools could be effective, there is an overarching need to urgently change attitudes related to the consumption of sugar.

"Right now, choosing, offering, or accepting a sugary drink is a practice deeply embedded in our culture. A sweet drink or dessert means a treat - a reward, an incentive, an element of celebration or just the most natural thing to do," McFarlane told The Gleaner.

She continued: "Changing those meanings takes time, but school-age children are at a good stage in their lives for the intervention. If the ban is accompanied by other school-based strategies, and if there are complementary efforts that may affect all Jamaicans' sugar consumption in contexts outside of school, then over time, we should see the desired effects."

According to Minister of Health Dr Chris Tufton, in the context of the ban that takes effect in January, sugary drinks means beverages that contain sugar or syrup that is added by the manufacturer. Tufton announced the ban during his sectoral presentation in the Lower House on Tuesday.

McFarlane, a University of the West Indies lecturer, argues that a ban would not necessarily result in reduced consumption for all students: "For some, these drinks will take on the allure of the forbidden. Such persons are at risk of overindulging on the weekends or after school."

She charges that students ought to be educated about the dangers of high sugar consumption and how to make healthier choices.

"They may compensate by substituting sugary drinks with other drinks that may be natural but can deliver unhealthy amounts of sugar if not consumed in the correct proportions," McFarlane advised.