The primary aim of the 10 per cent tax imposed on carbonated soft drinks, juice drinks, sports drinks and fruit juices with sweeteners in this year???s Budget is to decrease consumption.

This is intended to help reduce the high incidence of non-communicable diseases, especially diabetes, and contribute to the overall good health of Barbadians.

This is the message from the Ministry of Health, which responded in a statement today to suggestions in the Daily Nation of June 22 that the tax was less about health and more about generating revenue.

The tax is, in fact, all about health. ???Taxation is a proven method used in public health to influence positive behaviour. This was clearly demonstrated in the reduced demand for and consumption of tobacco products after these products were taxed,??? the statement added.

It further disclosed that there is new evidence emerging, which suggest that taxing food high in salt and sugar ???had good public health benefits???.The statement referred to international and local research which spoke to the devastating impact of high caloric sugar sweetened beverages on health.

The Health of the Nation Study conducted in Barbados in 2012 revealed that two in every three Barbadian adults were overweight or obese. One in three adults was hypertensive, and one in five diabetic.??In terms of the school-aged population, 31.9 per cent was overweight and 14.4 per cent obese. More than 70 per cent of the students surveyed for the study disclosed that they drank carbonated sweet drinks at least once a day during the preceding month.

According to the statement, the last study on the direct and interest cost of diabetes and hypertension indicated an annual expenditure of BDS $225 million. Overall, the contribution of the prevention, treatment and control of diabetes and hypertension to the economy of Barbados represented approximately 5% of GDP.??The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also addressed the link between poor dietary choices and the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases.

???The WHO states that there is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars, particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, may result in both an increase in total caloric intake and reduced intake of more nutrient dense foods, leading to weight gain and increased risk of NCDs,??? it said. The WHO has also noted with concern the role free sugars play in the development of dental diseases, particularly dental caries.

According to the statement, both the Guidelines for Healthy and Nutritious Foods in Schools in Barbados and the Food-Based Dietary Guidelines for Barbados, documents prepared by the National Nutrition Centre, recommend using less sugar, sugar-containing foods and sweetened beverages. Plain water, coconut water, unsweetened milk and 100 per cent fruit juice are suggested as healthy beverages.

The statement stressed that ???sugar-sweetened beverages are not necessary for survival, and are not recommended as part of a healthy diet???.??Acknowledging that education had a vital role to play in the fight against NCDs, the statement said the Ministry???s nutrition education programmes, Get Healthy Barbados television series and the numerous radio programmes and lectures given around the island by community nutrition officers were all aimed at informing Barbadians about healthy lifestyle options.

The Ministry of Health will continue to aggressively promote healthy lifestyles and will continue to engage the Barbadian public on these measures.?????The role of Government in effecting national change in the disease profile is to strengthen prevention and control policies and programmes. This can be achieved through multiple methods, including guidelines, regulations, taxation and other fiscal measures, and legislation,??? the statement concluded.

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