Is taxation the answer to better health?

LETTERS: Could taxation serve as a tool for better public health? While it may sound complex, it's a question worth asking.

Why should we consider this? The health statistics in Malaysia speak volumes. Approximately 21 per cent of adults smoke and five per cent vape, and many suffer from dental issues like cavities and gum problems.

These are more than just statistics; they signify the real health struggles certain Malaysians face daily.

Let's consider dental care. Private dental clinics often come with hefty fees, making routine care inaccessible for many. Government clinics, although more affordable, are overwhelmed by demand.

It's important to acknowledge that changing behaviours is a monumental task. Campaigns that promote better habits do make an impact, but the allure of sugary drinks and tobacco is hard to resist.

The difficulty of changing these ingrained behaviours lends credence to the idea that financial disincentives could be part of the solution.

Imagine a dual-purpose tax on items like sugary beverages and tobacco.

FIRST, it would act as a deterrent by making these products more expensive, thus encouraging healthier choices.

SECOND, the generated revenue could be earmarked for vital public health initiatives.

What if part of the funds were allocated towards educating people on the long-term effects of smoking, promoting healthier diets, or even relieving the burden on overwhelmed government dental clinics?

In this scenario, the tax serves not just as a deterrent but as an investment in our collective wellbeing.

So, when contemplating a purchase known for its health risks, consider this: a potential tax aims to dissuade you with a higher price tag.

If you still opt to indulge, the extra ringgits could, at least in theory, help resolve the very health problems these products often create.

Thus, we should engage in meaningful dialogue about how we might "buy our way to better health", not through individual decisions but by a collective investment in our nation's future.


Lecturer, Department of Community Oral Health and Clinical Prevention, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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