If 'soda tax' could reduce diabetes, why not?

Amerul Azry Abdul Aziz

Modified 12 Nov 2018, 6:43 am

LETTER | I was once rebuked by a close friend of mine for having a "bad habit" of taking coffee every day as he believes that consuming every kind of coffee, including one with brewed coffee beans, is sinful and could lead to diabetes. 

I bet most of you are not cognisant of the level of sugar in a cup of Latte, Americano (long black coffee) and the rest of the coffees served in coffeeshops, especially the ones that are familiarly labelled as “hipster”.

For those who have no knowledge or act like having one, purely-brewed coffees can’t cause diabetes unless we take them regularly with spoons of sugar stirred into them. 

As a true coffee lover, I don’t take coffees, especially my favourite ones, Latte and Americano, even with a small teaspoon of sugar. Until now, every person I hanged out with for a cup of coffee would be asking for sugar before getting their coffees sipped.

To me, such “behaviour” is disrespectful against coffee lovers like me as brewed coffees aren’t meant to be cobbled with "harmful substance" named sugar. They are best to be sipped for its original taste.

One of the social stigmas thrown at us coffee lovers is that we are going to suffer from diabetes instead of them, who excessively take teh tarik with roti canai and nasi lemak every single day. They think they are sinless enough to say that what they eat and drink are adequately nutritious and healthy. I laugh at this "joke".

Most Malaysians, especially Malays, are ignorant about the causes of diabetes. Even worse, they are aware but stubbornly refuse to cut their consumption of sugary drinks like teh tarik and carbonated ones, which are available at fast-food restaurants and other hang-out spots. Like smokers, they are in “denial mood” of what can cause diabetes.

Recently, there was a proposal to implement “soda tax” on sugary drinks sold in the market. If you ask for my opinion, I would say “Of course, I do agree. Why not?’’

As someone who doesn’t regularly take sugary drinks, I am definitely standing against those who detest the benign idea. I greatly believe that by imposing a tax on regularly-bought drinks with hidden levels of sugar, “regular customers” will be slowly but surely cutting their consumption of sweet drinks, especially canned ones.

Domino effect

If the current price of a canned carbonated drink is RM2.50, it’s impactful if the newly-proposed “soda tax” will cause the price of such sugary drinks to increase by RM3.50 to RM4.50. So, its new price will be RM6 to RM7.

My suggestion is that the tax should be increased every year to lower the increasing numbers of diabetics in this country.

I hope that the government could find a mechanism to create a domino effect on teh tarik lovers and other fans of hot sweet drinks, so that they could feel the burden of “paying more” for their ‘traditional drinks".

For instance, if you normally take five glasses of teh tarik at a mamak stall costing RM2.10 each, you have to pay RM10.50. Psychologically, you will get tired of paying more for your “teh tarik sessions”, and slowly shift to drinking a cup of sugarless brewed coffee with glasses of plain water.

If you’re willing to find alternatives for your sugary teh tarik, kopi-O and teh-O, you can start by taking hot Latte with just a packet of brown sugar. From there, you can slowly adapt your tongue with brewed coffees and stay away from the “harmful’’ milky tea.

My philosophy is simple — I would rather pay slightly higher for a cup of “hipster coffee” than spend thousands of bucks on hospital bills to get unwanted diabetes treated. But, if you think you can afford them, then you can dismiss my advice.

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