Public health advocates across India have hailed the proposal of Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian to tax sugar sweetened beverages on the lines of tobacco in his report to the government on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill.
The proposal to increase sin taxes on aerated drinks has caught the manufacturers unawares but has brought a cheer to public health activists who say it will have the same health benefits as taxes on tobacco have.
“All of the evidence we have to date suggests that taxing sugary drinks would be far more powerful and effective for protecting public health than simple education measures. Such taxes also generate funds to further support public health and combat the rising rates of chronic diseases in India,” said Dr Sanjay Basu, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, about the proposed tax.
Countries with high consumption of highly processed foods — high in fats, sugar and salt, or junk food — have seen skyrocketing obesity rates and associated illnesses such as diabetes.
The consumption of added sugars in India is, however, still relatively low compared to countries such as the US, the UK and Mexico.
Dr Arun Gupta, a senior pediatrician and regional coordinator of International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) Asia, says: “The proposal to tax sugar sweetened beverages similar to tobacco is a positive step. Increased sugar intake has been proven to be a bane for public health in countries where it is widely consumed. In addition, the government must also regulate marketing and promotion of such products especially targeting children.”