Vietnam’s consumption of sugar-based beverages has increased seven times in the last 15 years, with individual consumption per capita reaching an alarming high level, experts said at a health conference in Hanoi on Friday.
Vietnamese consumed four billion liters of soft drinks in 2016, with the figures expected to rise to five billion liters in 2018, and 11 billion liters in 2025, Truong Tuyet Mai, deputy director of the National Institute of Nutrition, said at the event.
The conference, co-hosted by Vietnam’s Ministry of Health cooperated with World Health Organization (WHO), was meant to raise people’s awareness about the health effects related to sugar-based drinks.
“Vietnam’s sugar consumption per capita is 46.5 gram per day, just shy of the maximum level of 50 grams a day, and two times higher than the dosage recommended by WHO,” Mai warned, citing a report by the sugar industry in 2017.
At the conference, Dr. Juliawat Untoro, a WHO nutrition expert in Vietnam, also warned that the country is on the brink of having the first-ever generation where children will be dying before their parents as a consequence of obesity and diabetes.
Truong Dinh Bac, deputy director of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, blamed the consumption of sugar-based drinks as one of the main factors of obesity in Vietnam.
“The incidence of diabetes in Vietnam has increased by more than 200 percent in ten years, while the proportion of overweight and obese children and adolescents between 5-19 rose by 273 percent in the 2002-2016 period,” Bac said.
Currently, sugar-based products account for ten percent of total energy intake of Vietnamese people, with doctors recommending that the amount be reduced to five percent to ensure health.
WHO experts recommended that Vietnam use financial measures to reduce consumption of sugar-based drinks.
|Children buy soft drinks at an elementary school in Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Friday’s conference took place against the backdrop of a recent proposal by the Ministry of Finance, seeking to add soft drinks and other sugar-based beverages to the list of goods subject to special consumption tax.
The proposition suggests applying either an absolute excise tax of VND2,000 per liter for all kinds of such beverages, or a VND20 per gram tax based on the amount of sugar of the products.
In the first scenario, if applied, the tax will send price of carbonated beverages to increase by 11 percent, with consumption down by 100-137 million liters and tax collection up by VND2 trillion (US$88 million), according to finance ministry.
For fruit and vegetable canned juices, the average price is projected to increase by eight percent, and consumption to decrease by 25-34 million liters and the tax revenue would increase by VND700 billion ($30.8 million).
If the second option is the case, soft drink price would increase by 12 percent, and fruit and vegetable juices by six percent, hopefully resulting in smaller consumptions.
In Southeast Asia, Thailand has levied taxes on soft drinks under the rule that the sweeter a drink is, the higher tax it is given.