Ministry of Health to ban sugary drinks at facilities

Sugary drinks will no longer be available at any Ministry of Health facility as of October, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday,

“Certainly, as early as October 1 in the Ministry of Health, every single Ministry of Health facility, agency, etc., we will ban the sale or availability of sugar-sweetened beverages, across every single Ministry of Health facility,” he said.

“That’s all the clinics, hospitals, and that’s in vending machines, tuck shops, wherever there is a Ministry of Health facility.

“Now, that doesn’t stop individuals from the personal freedom if they bring it in from home, but they certainly will not be able to buy it from one of those facilities.”

However, while the Ministry of Health has been calling for a tax on sugary beverages, Sands said that it is unlikely to come soon.

“The Ministry of Health has been recommending a sugar tax,” he said.

“The overarching position of the government has been ‘no new taxes at this time’.

“And, so, we will continue to promote the progressive view of a tax intended to disincentivize unhealthy lifestyles.

“I think that is only appropriate for this agency. And we stand firm in that position that, certainly, we believe that there should be a tax to limit the consumption of unhealthy items, whether it’s sugar, and it can extend to other things. We recognize the complexity of the discussion, but the persons who bear the greatest burden from NCDs (non-communicable diseases) are the least wealthy members of our society. So, they are preyed on by the industrial food complex; salt, sugar, fat, trans fat, I could go on.”

He added, “We have created a food addiction reality, and that food addiction is greatest owned by those who can least afford it.”

A National Health Insurance Agency survey conducted by Public Domain in April revealed that 65 percent of Bahamians get more than their total daily sugar requirement from sugary drinks. However, it also found that a majority of Bahamians interviewed would support a sugary drink tax.

According to the results, 74 percent of Bahamians would support a sugary drink tax if the proceeds were used to reduce healthcare costs for those who need it most; 76 percent would support a sugary drink tax if the proceeds were used to encourage healthier food choices; 76 percent would support a sugary drink tax if the proceeds were used to pay for a national wellness plan; and 61 percent would support a tax of 15 cents per can or more.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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