PH sweet tax saves lives

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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday revealed the Philippines can avert 24,000 premature deaths linked to diseases such as diabetes, stroke and heart failure in the next two decades after it adopted taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.

Taxes levied this year could cut consumption and avoid nearly 6,000 deaths related to diabetes, 8,000 from stroke and more than 10,000 from heart diseases over 20 years, the WHO study indicated.

“The new sugar-sweetened beverage tax may help reduce obesity-related premature deaths and improve financial well-being in the Philippines,” WHO researchers said.

They added that the taxes – which are part of a series of reforms aimed at helping to fund infrastructure — could yield healthcare savings of about $627 million and annual revenue of $813 million.

“High consumption of colas was the main driver of obesity, swelling the burden of non-communicable diseases,” WHO said.

The WHO has backed taxation as a way of curbing rising obesity by driving retail prices up by 10 to 20 percent to deter consumption. Retail prices of sugar-sweetened beverages have risen as much as 13 percent after the Philippines imposed the taxes in January, joining 27 countries with similar levies.

Data showed that in 2013 as much as 31 percent of the total Philippine adult population of 56.3 million was overweight, with the proportion of overweight youth nearly doubling to 8.3 percent from close to five percent within just a decade.

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