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Singapore to Set World’s First Ad Ban for High Sugar Drinks

Alfred Cang
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Singapore to Set World’s First Ad Ban for High Sugar Drinks

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore, one of Asia’s biggest per capita consumers of sugar, plans to implement a total ban on ads for packaged drinks with very high sugar content in an attempt to reduce illnesses in the rapidly-aging city state.

Such drinks as well as medium-to-high sugar content beverages must also carry a label on the front of the pack to signal that it’s unhealthy, Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong told a conference Thursday. The city state will be the first country in the world to implement a ban on ads for very high sugar drinks, according to a Straits Times report.

“Our rapidly aging population and rising prevalence of chronic diseases will lead us to an unsustainable, costly system with poorer health outcomes if we do not intervene,” Tong said, according to a transcript. The number of Singaporeans aged 65 and over will double in the next 10 years, he said.

Southeastern Asian countries including Singapore and Malaysia are among the world’s top consumers of sugar on a per capita basis, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. That’s led to an increase in health issues, with diabetes and obesity among top diseases, similar to other developed economies.

The timing of the new measures and exactly what will be affected are set to be announced next year, with implementation expected to take one to four years.

Singapore’s adopted other measures to improve the health of its citizens. In 2017, the government said it had convinced soft drink makers to reduce the sugar content sold in the city state. Smoking has also been a target, with a ban in certain public areas in the 1970s progressively expanding over time.

War on Diabetes

Consumers globally are cutting back on the sweetener with food companies committing to reducing sugar and calorie content, Pablo Sherwell, head of food and agribusiness research for North America at Rabobank, said last month. These initiatives could accelerate a slowdown in consumption, Sherwell said.

For Singapore, the government had asked for feedback on the possibility of introducing an excise duty or a tax on manufacturers and importers, as well as an outright ban on the sale of high-sugar beverages, said Tong, calling the move a “the War on Diabetes.”

(Updates with the speech transcript throughout)

--With assistance from Joyce Koh.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alfred Cang in Singapore at acang@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alexander Kwiatkowski at akwiatkowsk2@bloomberg.net, Anna Kitanaka, James Poole

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