Govt. must consider levying additional tax on products with a high sugar, sodium, salt or tobacco content to reduce burden of lifestyle disease: HCFI & IMA New Delhi, August 14, 2016: In June 2016, the Government of Fiji increased taxes on tobacco, alcohol and sugar sweetened beverages as all lead to increased risk of developing NCDs. The tobacco and alcohol taxes have been increased by 18.5% and a new levy on sugar-sweetened drinks has been introduced. Mexico started a similar tax in 2014, which resulted in a 12% reduction in sugary drinks sales within a year of the tax being implemented. “Indian Medical Association (IMA) & Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) commends this decision taken by both the governments to control these cardiovascular risk factors through taxation. We believe that a similar tax must also be imposed in India, which has seen a considerable rise in the number of lifestyle diseases over the past decade owing to the high stressed unhealthy lifestyle lived my majority of the population. India is already the diabetes capital of the world and is inching towards becoming the heart disease capital as well. The country is more at risk than ever before and steps must be taken on priority to raise awareness and reduce the disease burden”, said Padma Shri Awardee Dr KK Aggarwal – President HCFI & Honorary Secretary General IMA. While like the West, the consumption of sweetened beverages has proliferated to the masses in India; a compromised diet comprising of high trans fat food items including traditional sweets, ghee-friend delicacies – the consumption of which spikes during festival seasons further adds to the problem. The number of tobacco users in the country has also gone up considerably with people getting hooked on to cigarettes at a much younger age. It is a well-known fact that tobacco use is the leading preventable single risk factor common to all four main NCDs (CVD, cancer, diabetes and respiratory diseases). The first and foremost step is to raise awareness about the increasing burden of lifestyle diseases in our country and the ways in which they can be prevented. In the long run it is important for the administration to consider following taxation laws similar to that in Mexico and Fiji. Given the diversity of our country, it would be recommended to take Mexico and Fiji’s policy on sweetened beverages as a benchmark and customize it to suit the Indian needs. Evidence has shown that simple increases in tobacco prices through taxation are the most cost-effective way for governments to reduce tobacco use. According to the WHO a 10% increase in tobacco retail price (in middle income countries) results in a 5% decrease in consumption. A new report in The Lancet has estimated that reducing sugar content in sugar sweetened drinks by 40% over 5 years could prevent half a million people from becoming overweight and a million people from becoming obese.