Sat | Apr 21, 2018

Letter of the Day | Taxation can influence sugar consumption

Published:Monday | January 29, 2018 | 1:07 AM

 THE EDITOR, Sir:

The recent editorial, ‘Bring clarity to sugary drink policy’, in The Gleaner is very timely and addresses an issue that has long been a concern of The Heart Foundation of Jamaica.

As a country, we ignore at our peril the burgeoning overweight and obesity epidemic. This has implications for the health of our population, the economy, and national development. Obesity is a leading risk factor for the noncommunicable diseases (heart disease, cancer and diabetes) which can lead to disability and death. This can also occur prematurely in younger persons who are in the prime of their life.

HEAVY CONSUMPTION

“The consumption of sugary sweetened beverages is a major contributor to our daily sugar intake. According to the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey, more than 75 per cent of Jamaicans consume one or more sugar-sweetened beverage every day. This is more than the American Heart Association-recommended daily limit for added sugar, which is six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men.

The evidence for a link between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity is consistent and compelling. The World Health Organization, in recognizing this global epidemic, has recommended, based on evidence, that sugar consumption be reduced through effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages.

The communiqué released after the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in 2016 stated that the region had renewed their commitment to reducing NCDs and measures to achieve this included taxes on foods high in sugar, salt and trans-fats.

The Heart Foundation of Jamaica fully supports the editor’s statement that “Taxation, especially if the cost is passed on to consumers, is the best tool to influence consumption”. Can Jamaica afford the consequences of inaction?

Deborah Chen

Executive Director

The Heart Foundation of Jamaica