Singapore is all set to advance its ongoing 'war on diabetes' by banning advertisements of detrimental drinks with a high level of sugar content, becoming the first country to do so.
The measure to curb consumption of sugar in the city-state, which has some of the world's highest diabetes rates will cover all forms of media platforms.
The decision to ban sugar-sweetened beverages advertisements was made after a "public consultation" in the form of a survey, said Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for the city-state's Ministry of Health.
In addition to an ad ban, the ministry announced that sugary drinks would also be required to display a colour-coded, front-of-pack nutrition label to list nutritional quality and sugar content.
Soft drinks, juices, yoghurt drinks and instant coffee would all be affected by the new regulation, the ministry said in a press release.
The two measures are said to be the first steps in the city-state's efforts to combat diabetes. Two other proposals, including the possibility of introducing an excise duty or even an outright ban on high-sugar drinks, are still on the agenda.
We intend to study them more carefully and find measures that are sustainable in the long-term, that shape not just market consumption behaviour but also on the supply side to drive reformulation, he added.
Singapore's action appears to go further than measures in other countries such as Mexico and Britain, which restrict when advertisements for high-calorie food and drinks can be shown on television to limit their exposure to children.
The Coca-Cola Company, the world's biggest beverage maker, said it welcomed the plans and would work to reduce sugar levels in its drinks sold in Singapore.
"We will continue to rethink many of our recipes in Singapore to reduce sugar because while sugar in moderation is fine, we agree that too much of it is not good for anyone," said Ahmed Yehia, country manager for Coca-Cola Singapore and Malaysia.
"We foresee a minimal impact on our portfolio from this announcement," he added.
'War on diabetes'
High consumption of sugary drinks is associated with obesity and greater risks of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart diseases. According to the World Health Organization, people who regularly consume one to two cans of sugary drinks a day are 26% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who rarely drink them, reports CNN.
Furthermore, it is estimated that the worldwide prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
A leading international financial center, Singapore has been faced with a growing ageing population, which has prompted the government to explore ways to reduce its health care burden.
The city-state's obesity rate has been on the rise since the 1990s, and according to the International Diabetes Foundation, close to 1 in 7 adults in its population had diabetes in 2017.
High consumption of sugary products has been linked with greater risks of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
Before announcing the new regulations, the Health Ministry launched a public consultation on reducing the consumption of sugary beverages late last year. Over 70% of its respondents supported setting up advertising regulations to influence consumer choices.
The ministry also urged drinks manufacturers to reformulate their products to provide healthier choices, while retaining the taste.
In a statement to CNN, the Singaporean arm of Coca-Cola said it welcomed the new measures to help reduce sugar intake and said it expected them to have "minimal impact on our portfolio."
"We have been innovating to launch new lower-sugar and no-sugar drinks," it read. "Because while sugar in moderation is fine, we agree that too much of it is not good for anyone."