A ban on sugary drinks and tobacco at Ministry of Health facilities will come into place on December 1, according to the ministry’s policy statement on the matter.
The policy, however, will still allow employees to have sugary drinks in their possession for their own personal consumption.
“Effective 1st December 2019, the provision of, sale and making available for purchase through vending machines in addition to internal and external vendors, of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) will be banned at and from all Ministry of Health’s functions/events; and, on all its premises, inter alia its headquarters, attending properties, all pubic hospitals, all public community clinics, teaching institutions, library and health councils,” the statement said.
“Additionally, the promotion of these beverages for campaigns, at functions, as well as in or on said premises is also prohibited.
“For this policy an SSB shall be defined as any non-alcoholic beverage with added sugar. These beverages apply to both carbonated and non-carbonated forms and will include, but not be limited to, all brands of sodas and other carbonated soft drinks; non-fresh (non-100 percent) fruit and/or vegetable juice; lemonade/limeade; nectars; malts; energy drinks and flavored milk along with pre-sweetened teas and coffee.
“The policy does not negate an employee’s choice to have in his/her possession such beverage for personal consumption.
“Moreover, effective 1st December 2019, all stated facilities and properties shall be designated smoke-free environments displaying appropriate signage at all entrances and exits. Smoking of cigars, cigarettes, e-cigarettes and bidis will be prohibited.”
According to the statement, beverages that will be allowed to be sold or provided in the facilities include: water; fruit or vegetable juice with no sugar added; unsweetened teas, coconut water with no sugar added, non-flavored milk and smoothies with no added sugar.
“As a caveat, Vitamalt (Lite or Regular) can be made available only to individuals post blood donation,” it reads.
Beverages in vending machines at Ministry of Health facilities must have water stocked in at least three slot buttons per machine and have water in the highest selling position.
The machines must display nutritional facts for each beverage offered, and the price of water cannot exceed the price of the cheapest non-water beverage option.
Earlier this week, the United Nations urged Caribbean nations to take action to curb obesity and overweight rates in the region, highlighting high calorie foods and drinks with low nutritional value as a significant contributor to the problem.
The sugary drinks ban is being touted as a step towards improving the health of Bahamians
“The calories provided by sugar-sweetened beverages have little nutritional value, increasing total energy intake and potentially leading to unhealthy weight gain,” the Ministry of Health said.
“Scientific literature supports reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages as a way to reduce the risk of overweight and obesity.”