Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Tax soft drinks to control diabetes

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CAP calls on the authorities to impose a tax on soft drinks as an effort to reduce the escalating number of diabetics among Malaysians.

 The soda tax, as it is commonly called in the USA, is a tax or surcharge on soft drinks. The main purpose of this tax is to discourage high sugar consumption as soft drinks is a main contributor to obesity, which in turn is linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other health problems.

The soda tax should focus on sugar-sweetened beverages like soda drinks, other carbonated and non-carbonated drinks, and sports and energy drinks which have high sugar content.

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Norway has an excise tax on refined sugar products, including soft drinks, at 7.05 kroner (RM3.70) per kg. Hungary and Finland introduced taxes on soft drinks and other high-sugar foods. The French government approved a tax on colas and other sweetened beverages early this year. The states of Maryland and Virginia in the USA levied taxes on soda drinks. And New York and Richmond in the USA are the latest cities to propose taxes on sugary drinks.

A can of soft drink have 5-8 teaspoonfuls of sugar and it is one of the reasons why Malaysians consume extremely high levels of sugar, averaging 26 teaspoonfuls a day, making us the eighth largest consumers of sugar in the world.

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Besides obesity and diabetes, soft drinks are linked to many other health problems. Sodium benzoate, a preservative used in soft drinks, is linked to asthma. Colas with high phosphoric acid are linked to tooth decay, osteoporosis, kidney stones and other kidney problems. BPA or Bisphenol-A used in the lining of soft drink cans can cause reproductive abnormalities.


Diabetes has become a condition of epidemic proportion worldwide, prompting the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) to declare November 14 as World Diabetes Day.

In Malaysia, we have a sugar subsidy which encourages sugar consumption. We must remove this subsidy and on top of that impose a soda tax to curb the diabetes epidemic. The prevalence of diabetes has skyrocketed over the years in spite of many campaigns against diabetes. Simply put, the authorities have failed to stop the diabetes epidemic.

At the current population of 28 million and at the prevalence rate of 15%, it is estimated that there are 4.2 million diabetics in Malaysia. In the first National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) carried out in 1986, the prevalence of diabetes was 6.3%. The figure increased to 8.3% in 1996 and the latest 2006 NHMS revealed that the diabetes prevalence has increased to 14.9%. Diabetes in Malaysia is expected to continue to climb at an increased rate due to the typical Malaysian diet and lifestyle.

Surveys have shown that for every two known diabetics, there is at least one more that is undiagnosed and untreated until irreversible complications set in. Worse still, Type 2 diabetes is no longer seen as a disease of middle or old age — children as young as 10 years old suffering from diabetes are not uncommon nowadays.

The diabetes prevalence rate in Malaysia has risen much faster than expected, almost doubling in magnitude over the last decade. Diabetes does not only take a toll on the country’s resources, but also on the limbs (amputation), eyesight (blindness), kidney (failure), heart (failure), stroke and nerve (damage) of its sufferers. Diabetes is the mother of many diseases.

The alarming increase in Malaysia’s prevalence of diabetes needs strong measures by the Government to stem this epidemic.

CAP urges the authorities to:
--  Impose a tax on soft drinks
--  Remove the subsidy on sugar
--  Prohibit the sale of supersized soft drinks
--  Have the traffic light system of food labels to indicate the unhealthy levels of sugar, salt and fats
--  Unhealthy foods that contain high fats, sugar, salt and additives should be discouraged by the introduction of taxes on such foods
--  Educate Malaysians on the dangers of obesity and diabetes
--  Encourage exercises and provide the necessary amenities for exercises in all residential areas.