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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 56-59

Sugar and fat taxes as means to halt obesity and prevent lifestyle diseases: Opportunities and challenges in the Indian context

1 Department of Community Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Community Medicine, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Saurav Basu
Department of Community Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jncd.jncd_15_17

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Obesity in both children and adults is a major public health problem globally and is also increasing in the developing world which contributes to the epidemic of early onset of non-communicable diseases and associated premature mortality. Dietary consumption of unhealthy foods rich in sugar, salt and saturated fats is a significant risk factor for obesity. There is growing evidence that taxation on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) and fat rich foods along with restricting access to such unhealthy foods in school premises can shift dietary consumption patterns of school students towards healthier foods and reduce their risk of developing obesity and lifestyle diseases. However, despite some limited initiatives, the application of taxes on SSBs as a public health intervention have yet to be unequivocally applied in Indian settings due to inadequate advocacy from public health groups and political reluctance due to the industry being a major source of tax revenue. Efforts in combating obesity through tax on unhealthy foods like SSBs and fats is overdue in India but the barriers and challenges against their successful implementation cannot be overlooked. These include the necessity of application of a sufficiently high tax which would compel manufacturers of unhealthy foods like SSBs to pass the burden of the tax upon consumers by significantly increase retail prices. Furthermore, India's vast informal food sector producing local counterparts of branded SSB and fat foods should not be spared and kept out of the taxation net out of any political considerations. Similarly, the restriction on sale of unhealthy foods in school premises should also include implementation in areas and markets in the vicinity to which students have easy access.

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