Those who are worried about diabetes – and everyone should be – should welcome the announcement that Singapore will become the first country in the world to ban advertisements of packaged drinks that have very high sugar content. It will also be mandatory for drinks with medium-to-high sugar content to carry a label on the front of the packet to signal that they are unhealthy. Drinks affected include those in bottles, cans and packets. Soft drinks, juices, sachets of three-in-one drinks, and cultured milk and yogurt drinks are covered as well. When this comes into effect and what exactly will be affected will be announced next year, with more time given to manufacturers before the measures are implemented.
Manufacturers should use this time wisely to reposition their products along the healthy spectrum. They need to strike a balance between the pursuit of profits and their responsibilities towards what is in the larger social good. That good is clear: the move could help to tackle diabetes, which costs Singapore over $1 billion every year. Experts have warned that companies could seek to circumvent the advertising ban by leveraging the strength of their brands and not individual products that they can no longer advertise, thus creating an association between a reputable brand and the assumption that its products are healthy.