A sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) tax for South Africa was announced by the Minister of Finance in his February 2016 budget speech with implementation to occur in April 2017. South Africa has a growing obesity burden with 39% of women and 11% of men obese, and is among the top 10 global consumers of sugary drinks. Sugar is a significant contributory risk factor towards diseases such as diabetes, hypertensive and ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease that are in the top ten leading cause of years of life lost in SA (2013) (2014/15 District Health Barometer).
The use of fiscal instruments such as taxes is highly cost effective for low and middle-income countries (LMIC) to tackle chronic diseases.(1) The SSB tax is an important first step that is part of the National Department of Health’s Strategic plan for Non – Communicable Diseases and their National Strategic plan for Obesity. Researchers at the Wits School of Public Health have shown that a 20% tax could reduce the number of obese people by almost a quarter of a million over the next 3-5 years.
The announcement of the SSB tax has already generated significant opposition from certain sectors and individuals. On 14th April, a meeting was jointly hosted by PHASA and PRICELESS SA (priority Cost Effective lessons for System Strengthening) to bring together dental, public health and other professionals from across the country to create a coalition that is in support of the SSB tax. Evidence on obesity and related diseases, SSBs and the tax was shared followed by an overview of policymaker engagements.
After discussions, coalition stakeholders with proposed roles were identified. PHASA has since drafted a letter to the Departments of Treasury and Health as well as to all major newspapers in support of the SSB tax.
Related article on health24: Bring on sugar tax say SA’s top health experts
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1. Cecchini M, Sassi F, Lauer JA, Lee YY, Guajardo-Barron V, Chisholm D. Tackling of unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and obesity: health effects and cost-effectiveness. The Lancet.376(9754):1775-84.
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