ThaiHealth pushes for ‘Sugar Tax’ in hope to reduce consumption of sweetened products
…the cause of diseases among Thai people is rooted from “sweet tooth behaviour”
According to statistics by the Office of the Cane and Sugar Board, Thai people consume on average 25 teaspoons of sugar a day, an excessive amount which is much higher than the limit suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The changing lifestyles are causing Thai people to consume 4 times more sugar than the suggested amount, resulting in 75% of Thailand’s population falling ill and dying from NCDs at the rate of about 1,000 people per day — while the trend is increasing. (Data from: Estimation of health impacts from sugary beverage tax increase in Thailand)
ThaiHealth campaigns for Thai people to “Reduce Sweetness, Reduce Diseases” for good health on the public level
Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) is putting emphasis on health promotion work at the public level seeing that people are considered an important factor to make the health promotion effort successful for the past 21 years. Joining hands with its network partners to pass on health-related knowledge, ThaiHealth has been supporting the establishment of Sweet Enough Network to campaign for Thai people in general to adjust their eating habits by disseminating correct understanding under the concept of “prevention before treatment” on the public level starting from households, communities, organisations, all the way to manufacturing industries, to develop a new social norm and to promote awareness of the dangers of consuming sweet food. The campaign is conducted through SOOK creative media that is accessible to all ages under the name of “Reduce Sweetness, Reduce Diseases” by eating no more than two teaspoons of sweeteners and to create a new attitude towards sweetness among Thai people that reduced sweetness can also be delicious.
To make health promotion efforts successful, cooperation among relevant agencies with a common goal towards Thai people’s good health is essential. Based on this problem, ThaiHealth joined forces with the Excise Department, Ministry of Finance, in pushing for the policy to collect sweet tax in 2017, generating changes in accordance with the principle of increasing taxation for people to reduce their consumption of products that are a health risk, for manufacturers to adjust recipes and produce beverages with less sugar, creating more healthy alternative products and raise awareness of the health effects of over-consumption of sugar.
From the Sweet Tax to New Attitude of sugar consumption
A study in 2019 by the Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University, found that Thai people’s average daily average consumption is more than 3 cups of sugar, especially among the drinkers of cold beverages such as coffee, boba tea, and beverages of various flavours with different types of sweeteners. It was also found that bottled soft drinks are the most popular. In the past two decades, Thailand has found many children and adults who are overweight, mostly caused by excessive and non-nutritional consumption of sweets.
After ThaiHealth and the Sweet Enough Network are driving a policy to collect sugar tax with the assistance of the Excise Department, it was found that the consumption behaviour of Thai people has shifted to a good direction where people are more aware of the dangers of eating sweet food. Meanwhile, the industrial sector has also adjusted its production recipes and launched healthy products to meet market demands. The data from the health impact estimated using the sugar tax collected indicated that, after the sweet tax imposed, the overall healthcare cost can be reduced by 18,383,836 baht in 2026, by 95,194,007 baht in 2031, and by 121,371,070 baht in 2036. (Data from: Health impact estimated from measures to increase tax on sugary beverages in Thailand)
Figures from the Excise Department collected over the past five years in the manufacturing industry indicated that the adjustment of sugar in the ingredient at the amount of less than 6 grams per litre have increased from 90 million litres to 4,835 million litres; those with sugar in the ingredient at the amount of more than 14 grams per litre have decreased from 819 million litres to 9.5 million litres. The study also found there was a 35% increase in sweetened beverages on shelves. According to the data from the Office of the Cane and Sugar Board, the consumption of sugar in the beverage industry decreased from 600 million kilogrammes to approximately 400 million kilogrammes (Data: ThaiHealth).
The 3rd decade of ThaiHealth and public health promotion
It is not just one person’s problem, but it is imperative that all sectors must work together to encourage Thai people to have good health in every aspect. In this third decade of ThaiHealth, this organisation remains committed to mobilise all forces of the strategic partners to spark, stimulate, cultivate, empower, and campaign for Thai people to change their eating behaviour of reducing the consumption of sweet food by creating knowledge and disseminating correct understanding about well-beingness through creative media and health-promoting innovations that touch Thai people’s health problems, as well as creating values for a new Thai society that is filled with good health in all dimensions.