South Africa on course to fight obesity epidemic
Johannesburg (5 December 2017) – Today the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) passed a tax on sugary drinks, which will enable the government to tackle the growing obesity and non-communicable disease (NCD) epidemics in South Africa through a sugary drinks tax.
The National Council of Provinces approved the Rates and Monetary Amounts and Revenue Law Amendment Bill. This Bill provides for a Health Promotion Levy, which includes a tax on sugary drinks planned to go into effect on 1 April 2018, once the President signs the Bill.
“We applaud Members of Parliament for putting the health of millions of South Africans before the narrow interests of the beverage and sugar industries,” said Tracey Malawana, coordinator of the Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA). “Thanks to Treasury and MPs, South Africa is on the right path to reverse the alarming numbers of diabetes cases and other NCDs associated with obesity. We now look to the President to sign this important law without delay. “
South Africans are among the top 10 consumers of sugary drinks in the world, and research has shown that drinking just one sugary fizzy drink a day increases the chance of being overweight by 27% for adults and 55% for children. Diabetes alone claimed more than 25 000 lives in 2015, and public health facilities reported seeing 10 000 new diabetes cases every month last year.
“While the tax is a victory for public health, it is around 11 percent on a can and we would like it to be strengthened to 20 percent to really deter people,” said Malawana. “We will also be monitoring how the proceeds of the tax are used to ensure that government uses the money for health promotion.”
Taxes on sugary drinks have been an effective measure for reducing the consumption of sugary drinks and are recommended by leading global and South African public health experts. Through this health measure, South Africa will be one of over 30 countries worldwide taxing sugary drinks. This year alone, Portugal, India, Saudi Arabia and Thailand have passed taxes on sugary drinks, It is a critical element of a comprehensive plan including other policies and programs to reduce obesity and related diseases in South Africa.