Triple It: Former UWI Dean Suggests Heavier Tax Will Quell Barbadians’ Thirst For Sweet Drinks

Armed with data of a spiraling epidemic of chronic diseases in Barbados, a leading medical practitioner has urged government to increase taxes on sweet drinks and unhealthy foods to rescue the growing number of Barbadians fast consuming their way to ill health

A tough talking Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies Sir Henry Fraser insisted that the 10 per cent tax introduced a year ago on fizzy, sugary drinks should be tripled, on the heels of an admission by the country’s Health Minister that the tax had done little to quell the thirst of Barbadians for sodas.

“It must be significant to make a difference. Ten per cent increases are just taken in stride every day,” he argued, while delivering a lecture in the 50th Independence Anniversary lecture series hosted by the faculty.

Sir Henry said the island had to face the fact that it was in the throes of a crippling obesity epidemic with devastating financial and social costs.

“Two thirds of women are overweight or obese….One third of men are overweight or obese,” he lamented, adding that 20 per cent of all adults have high blood pressure, and half of those were over 45. “By age 60, it’s 60 per cent. And one in five adults over 45 has diabetes, all heading for strokes, heart attacks and kidney failure.”

Against this backdrop, he argued that imposing a harsher tax would send a strong signal to hundreds eating themselves to death.

“Until we have a better understanding of how to change behaviour, one method is clearly successful,” Sir Henry said, asserting that high taxes on alcohol and cigarettes had resulted in a decrease in use among the population.

Alternately, he appealed to authorities to remove the 17.5 per cent Value Added Tax on healthy foods as a mean of encouraging consumers to make better choices.

Sir Henry went on to lay a case for the Government to lead a health revolution, starting with the nation’s children whom he said were being bombarded by unhealthy messages.

He branded the sale of junk food and advertisements by fast food companies at schools a “scandal.”

“I think it that is totally unethical,” Sir Henry said.

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