Other experts weigh in on Singapore's sugar debate

PHOTO: Other experts weigh in on Singapore's sugar debate

SINGAPORE - Studies have shown that too much sugar is partly to blame for the rise in chronic diseases, so a tax will show the Government's commitment in ensuring healthy living, said Singapore Heart Foundation dietician Lauren Ho.

It will also push food industries to find substitutes for sugar more seriously, said Associate Professor Jimmy So, head of National University Hospital's Centre for Obesity Management & Surgery.

Not quite, said diabetes specialist Dr Tan Chee Eng. He said people will still pay extra for something unhealthy, as they do for booze and cigarettes now.

"Unless their mindset (on healthy living) changes, a sugar tax is not going to work," the consultant endocrinologist at Gleneagles Medical Centre added.

Dr Jeremy Lim said the Government should be in charge as "it's not terribly difficult to subsidise at source compared to subsidising individual hawkers".

But government intervention at every level of our lives is undesirable, said CIMB economist Song Seng Wun.

"Having legislative enforcement is akin to passing the buck. Health management should be left to parents rather than the Government." Added Gleneagles' Dr Tan: "It is a heavy burden for any Government to subsidise healthy food."

LAST RESORT

Still, taxes or subsidies cannot be the only method. Health education is the key.

"It's better to educate people to eat healthily at a young age," Dr Tan said. "By the time they get the disease, the damage is already done."

Besides industry collaboration, we should also relook urban design. For instance, building more exercise facilities could encourage people to lead a more active lifestyle.

"A sugar tax can be the last resort," said Prof So.

Marketing executive Charmaine Ng agreed.

Formerly a chubby teen, she eventually lost weight due to academic stress.

"I used to struggle with homework, so food would be the last thing on my mind," the 24-year-old said.

"Of course, I also envied my slim friends who looked good and I wanted to be like them."

This article was published on April 7 in The New Paper. Get The New Paper for more stories.