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More Singaporeans in favour of banning high-sugar drinks than implementing a sugar tax

Almost 60 percent of respondents said that they are in favour of the ban on high-sugar drinks, while only a little over 40 percent said they would get behind a tax on sugar

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Singapore — A recent survey showed that more Singaporeans would support measures banning drinks that are high in sugar rather than implementing a sugar tax.

A YouGov omnibus survey whose results were released on July 12, Friday, showed almost 60 percent of respondents saying that they are in favour of the ban on high-sugar drinks, while only a little over 40 percent said they would get behind a tax on sugar.

But almost half of the respondents actually said that they believe a sugar tax would be to Singaporeans’ benefit, while a quarter said that it would be detrimental.

Last December, the Ministry of Health and the Health Promotion Board said they wanted to hear feedback from the public regarding four initiatives that would curb the sugar intake of Singaporeans, as part of the fight against diabetes.

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The four are a sugar tax, a ban on such drinks with higher sugar level, tighter rules on related advertisements, and compulsory front-of-pack nutrition labels.

Forty-two percent of the respondents said they would support a sugar tax, while 58 percent said they are against it. Among those who support the tax, 50 percent are university degree holders, and 47 percent are high-income earners (people whose income is S$4,000 a month and higher).

Meanwhile, forty-six percent of the respondents see the sugar tax as something positive for Singaporeans, and 25 percent believe the opposite. Twenty-eight percent said they were undecided on the matter. People with lower incomes were more likely to believe that a sugar tax is detrimental than those with higher incomes.

The survey also showed that

  • 7 percent, or more than one in twenty, Singaporeans drink soft drinks every day
  • 26 percent drink soft drinks weekly
  • 32 percent drink soft drinks monthly
  • 26 percent drink soft drinks yearly
  • 9 percent do not drink soft drinks

If a sugar tax were to be implemented, 52 percent of the respondents said they would be drinking fewer soft drinks, while 23 percent said they would stop drinking sugary drinks completely with a sugar tax. For the remaining 23 percent, their soft drink consumption would not change, and 1 percent said they would actually drink more of these high-sugar drinks.

Another measure that the Ministry of Health is considering is to ban the sale of high-sugar drinks completely. Interestingly, 68 percent of Singaporeans diagnosed with diabetes support this measure, compared to only 58 percent who don’t. Sixty-eight percent of Singaporeans from the ages of 55 and older also support the ban, compared to only 45 percent of those younger than 55.

When asked to rank several substances based on how addictive they are, Singaporeans ranked sugar in second place, at 18 percent. Drugs came first on the list of the most addictive substances, at 41 percent, followed by caffeine (16 percent), nicotine (14 percent), alcohol (6 percent) and salt (6 percent).

“Singapore might have declared a war on diabetes, but not all are in favour of the proposed measures. Low-income earners in particular are more likely to have a negative view of a sugar tax, with a significant percentage thinking it to be detrimental. Whether a ban or a tax, people’s views on sugar are bound to be polarising, especially as it deals with a substance that Singaporeans deem more addictive than nicotine,” said Jake Gammon, Head of Omnibus APAC at YouGov Omnibus.

The survey involved the perspectives of 1,132 Singaporeans from June 25 to July 9./ TISG

Read related: Can sugary drinks cause cancer?

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