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Last Thursday, Singapore announced that it would become the first country to place a total ban on all sugary drink advertisements as a part of its “war on diabetes”. This ban will apply to all adverts on newspapers, online channels, television and radio and mass media. With diabetes on the rise in Singapore and Asia more broadly, the move sets an example for other governments in the region to step up their efforts to promote better dietary choices and healthy lifestyles.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health just enacted a ban on ads for unhealthy drinks with high sugar content across all media platforms as a part of its ongoing “war on diabetes” after a public consultation survey. Under this law, soft drinks, juices, yogurt drinks and instant coffee will be affected. It will also mean that companies will be required to display a colour mapped nutrition label on all sugary beverages so consumers have adequate information on nutritional quality and full ingredient content.
Senior Minister of State for Singapore’s Ministry of Health Edwin Tong expressed in a press conference that these measures only mark initial steps and that an outright ban on high-sugar beverages are still on the agenda. He said: “We intend to continue as strongly, if not more strongly, on our road to ensure that there is awareness” so consumers are “empowered to make their own choices on which products are healthier.”
These new regulations come as the city faces an escalating diabetes epidemic and obesity crisis. Frequently consuming sugary drinks has been linked with a higher likelihood of obesity and greater chances of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes and coronary heart disease. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), those drinking 2 cans of sugary drinks are 26% more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a massive problem in Singapore, with the average person in the city eating or drinking an average of 12 teaspoons (or 60g) of sugar daily, with over half coming from sugary drinks. In 2017, the city’s population living with diabetes increased to 1 in 7 adults.
Countries in Asia-Paciifc, in particular, are most vulnerable to both the obesity crisis and diabetes as the region experiences urbanisation and its accompanied trend towards convenient over-processed junk food. Worryingly, the most recent report by the World Obesity Federation (WOF), a global non-profit organisation officially linked to the WHO, has also revealed that at our current trajectory, type 2 diabetes, which used to only affect adults, could begin to affect children.
Commenting on the ad ban, Coca-Cola Singapore told CNN that they “have been innovating to launch new lower-sugar and no-sugar drinks…we agree that too much [sugar] is not good for anyone.”
This move should set an example for other governments, particularly in the Asian region, to step up efforts to promote healthier diets. Many experts agree that food-related health epidemics have stemmed from governmental inaction to intervene to improve the people and planet’s health at the risk of angering commercial or corporate interests.
Lead image courtesy of Getty Images.