Starting on August 1 in Barbados, fans of sugary beverages will have to start forking over a 10 percent tax on all carbonated soft drinks, energy drinks, sweetened fruit juices and juice drinks. The new sugar tax was created in an effort to combat the Caribbean island’s obesity epidemic and to change consumer behavior — but the residents of Barbados are far from happy.
Despite the fact that widespread obesity in Barbados has reached an all-time high, residents view the tax more as a money-grabbing effort by the government, rather than a healthy living initiative. The Barbados government, on the other hand, believes obesity has reached a level that cannot simply be fixed through personal lifestyle adjustments and must instead be addressed through changes in policy.
But as unhappy as Barbados residents are about the tax, they can’t deny the facts of obesity — 64 percent of adults in Barbados are overweight or obese, which is dangerously close to America’s rate of almost 69 percent. Even worse, 34 percent of children in Barbados are overweight or obese, which is almost double America’s 17 percent. The Barbados government spends almost $113 million (in US currency) fighting diabetes and high blood pressure every year. According to Health Minister John Boyce, the cost of prevention, treatment and control of diabetes and hypertension accounts for roughly 5 percent of the country’s GDP.
According to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, beverages containing only intrinsic sugars, like 100 percent natural fruit juice, plain milk, evaporated milk and coconut water, will not be subject to the extra 10 percent.
A similar sugar tax was imposed in Mexico in January 2014, and the country has already seen positive changes. Purchases of taxed, sugary beverages have declined, while purchases of sugar-free beverages, like water, are on the rise. Sugar taxes also exists in Mauritius, Samoa, Tonga, Hungary, France, Finland and French Polynesia.
The rise of sugar taxes sweeping across the globe begs the question: Will America be next?