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State ponders ‘sugar tax’ to fight cancer

05 February 2014   (4 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Tamar Khan
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Author: Tamar Khan (BDlive)

The Department of Health is considering a "sugar tax" to encourage South Africans to consume less of the sweet stuff, according to head of noncommunicable diseases Melvyn Freeman.

His comments follow the publication of the World Health Organisation’s latest Global Cancer Report on Monday, which found that tobacco, booze and sweet drinks are driving a rapid growth in preventable cancers. Its authors said while it was important for governments to encourage people to take responsibility for their own health and make changes to their diet and lifestyle, regulators should consider controlling alcohol and sugar consumption in the same way as tobacco products.

South Africa already has strong anti-tobacco legislation and recently introduced measures to limit the amount of salt in processed food.

It is also considering a ban on alcohol advertising, and recently commissioned research into the economic effects of such a ban.

"We don’t have any decision on a sugar tax. It is, however, an option that is being considered and we are assessing the evidence around this," said Prof Freeman.

The Global Cancer Report 2014 said the global cancer burden rose to 14-million new cases a year in 2012, a figure which is set to rise to 22-million by 2022.

"Despite exciting advances, this report shows that we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem," said report co-editor Christopher Wild, who is a director at the International Agency for Research on Cancer. "More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed."

The report noted that there were many causes of cancer, including viruses, pesticides and radiation exposure. It pointed out that excess body fat increased the risk of cancer of the oesophagus, colon, pancreas, endometrium, kidney and breast cancer in post-menopausal women. "Among the dietary factors related to excess body weight, reduction of consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages should be a high priority.

"The University of the Witwatersrand School of Public Health’s Karen Hofman said it was not clear if a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would be feasible, but even if it were, it should not be seen as a silver bullet. "Any regulatory effort will only ever be part of the solution. People should be free to eat and drink what they like, but they need to have a full understanding of what they are consuming ," Prof Hofman said. Clear evidence existed that sugar played a role in obesity, which raised the risk of diabetes, hypertension and some cancers, she said.

However, Discovery’s Vitality Institute head Derek Yach cautioned against placing too much emphasis on the link between sugar consumption and preventable cancers.

"A focus on taxes on sugar to reduce cancer is a misplaced policy which will have little impact on cancer incidence and distract people from the major diet issues — reduce overall weight and increase healthy (food)," Dr Yach said.Tobacco should remain the focus of cancer prevention efforts, he said. "

Tobacco remains by far the most powerful single determinant of cancer, accounting for 90% of the lung cancer cases and about a third of all cancer deaths."

This article first appeared on bdlive.co.za. 

Comments...

Elsie L. van den Bergh (Muller) says...
Posted 12 February 2014
I think government is just using this to get more tax out of the citizens. Sugar is enery giving to the poorest of the poor.
Elsie L. van den Bergh (Muller) says...
Posted 12 February 2014
I think government is just using this to get more tax out of the citizens. Sugar is enery giving to the poorest of the poor.
Kylie Dutton (Dutton) says...
Posted 11 February 2014
I think this is a good move. Over the years there has been a marked increase in the consumption of sugars in our daily diets. Sugar's are hidden in almost everything we eat, in quantities that we cannot even begin to imagine. If we add to the list of issues this dreadful substance causes, sugar could be the no 1 health problem world wide. I think Discovery taking this so lightly is very short sighted. Nobody is saying sugar is the only cause, they are saying that sugar and alcohol should be treated in the same way as tobacco. There should be sin taxes and the advertising should be controlled. Walk through a supermarket the next time you are in one and read the labels, now take an estimate of how much of that food you can eat if you are not allowed to eat processed sugars and carbs....10-15% of the store is edible. We have a problem in this country and the world in how we market these addictive substances to our children (and adults). People die from ingesting these substances.
Joffre Papenfus says...
Posted 07 February 2014
The reasoning aside, if government cannot even properly account for the most basic spending on it's core functions, how will it ensure that this tax is actually spent as intended? Also, this looks more like just another grab at money, as governments accross the globe begin buckling under huge debts. I am starting to dread the day governments decide to tax necessities such as drinking water or the air we need to breath.

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