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Let’s consider the diabetes statistics in the UAE: Figures from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) revealed that, in 2017, 17.3 per cent of the UAE population between the ages of 20 and 79 have type 2 diabetes. There are over 1 million people living with diabetes in the UAE, placing the country 15th worldwide for age-adjusted comparative prevalence. Worldwide, by 2040, 642 million people will be affected by diabetes.

The decision by UAE therefore to levy a tax of 50 per cent on sugary products — any product with added sugar or other sweeteners, whether in form of a liquid, concentrate, powders, extracts or any product that may be converted into a drink — is laudable.

The move is a continuation of the 2017 introduction of sin tax on sugary carbonated and energy drinks and tobacco products, a trend that is acquiring a growing global footprint as more countries move to tax unhealthy products to control the rampant rise in lifestyle diseases.

Every step taken in tackling this challenge matters and that includes rendering every bottle of sugary drink just that much more expensive so it ceases to be an easy indulgence.

- Gulf News

The new UAE tax, effective from January 1, 2020, is the accelerator that will push the country towards its goal of reducing the prevalence of diabetes from 19.3 to 16.3 per cent by 2021. The new tax also applies to electronic smoking devices.

How effective is taxation on such products to combat the problem they contribute to? A report in January posted that energy drink sales in the UAE saw a drop by as much as 65 per cent over the 15 months since the sin tax was introduced in 2017.

This is persuasive proof, even to the sceptics, of how effective such strategies are, since these products play no insignificant a role in promoting ill health and taxation does have a discernible impact in lowering their consumption rates.

There is a clear cumulative advantage at play here and this must be yoked to national health care policies, along with other measures such as awareness drives and empowering discourses on a healthy lifestyle, which the UAE has been undertaking with vigour year after year.

The cost of treating lifestyle diseases is an enormous drain on any country’s health care system. And the challenge with diabetes is that for every four diagnosed cases, there could be an equal number, or more, of cases that go undiagnosed.

Every step taken in tackling this challenge matters and that includes rendering every bottle of sugary drink just that much more expensive so it ceases to be an easy indulgence.