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Strategic councils for health and nutrition submit joint proposals to the Government

Today, the Strategic Council for Nutrition and the Strategic Health Council held a joint session. The experts from both councils expressed the clear view that decisive measures are needed to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol and the use of tobacco, in particular among young people.
The Prime Minister, the President of the Strategic Council for Nutrition, the President of the Strategic Health Council, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health

Session of the strategic councils for health and nutrition | Author Damir Kolar/Urad Vlade RS za komuniciranje

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Beverages with added sugar are related to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, tooth decay, excess weight gain and many other diseases related to obesity. Moreover, drinking sweetened beverages increases habituation to sweet flavours, replaces the intake of healthy food and reduces one’s affinity for vegetables.

In Slovenia, the consumption of energy drinks, which are the most harmful sweetened beverages, has been rising sharply since 2016. Tax on sweetened beverages, usually higher for energy and sports drinks, has been introduced in 83 countries.

Slovenia ranks among the top countries in the world in terms of alcohol consumption per person. In 2021, the recorded alcohol consumption in the age group 15 and above was 10.6 l of pure alcohol per person per year. Roughly 43% of people aged between 25 and 64 are high-risk drinkers. The mortality rate due to alcohol-related causes of death is almost five times higher than the EU average. Slovenia ranks first in the number of deaths related to excessive drinking.

According to WHO findings, the most effective measure to prevent or reduce alcohol consumption is to reduce affordability, which is easiest to regulate through excise duty. Slovenia does not follow the WHO recommendation to gradually increase the prices of alcoholic beverages. Due to the passivity of excise duty policy, affordability is even increasing.

Tobacco use is one of Slovenia's most pressing healthcare problems, as every day at least 60 people die due to tobacco in Slovenia. The number of tobacco-related deaths per year is significantly higher than the number of deaths caused by accidents (including traffic accidents), suicide, alcohol, illicit drugs and AIDS together. Based on a comprehensive international study, it was estimated that in high-income countries the costs of the treatment of diseases attributed to tobacco account for roughly 6% of healthcare expenditure. Together with the indirect costs of reduced productivity due to morbidity and income loss due to mortality, the costs that can be attributed to tobacco represent about 2% of GDP. It is important to be aware that the tobacco industry is constantly adapting to restrictive public health policies. The use of e-cigarettes among 15-year-olds increased from 1% in 2014 to 17% in 2022. Even children in the first three grades of primary school use them. E-cigarettes contain 243 chemical substances, many of them harmful and carcinogenic. The use of e-cigarettes increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and cancer. More than 30 countries have already prohibited the sale of e-cigarettes.

The members of both strategic councils proposed that the following be considered: an increase in VAT and excise duty on sweetened beverages, alcohol and tobacco, the adoption of an alcohol policy, the prohibition of the sale of e-cigarettes, chewing and sniffing tobacco and typical flavourings for all tobacco and related products, the prohibition of smoking tobacco and heated tobacco products in front of public institutions, a reduction in the number and types of selling points of tobacco and related products, and restrictions on the locations of selling points (the distance from educational institutions and places where young people gather). They also proposed accompanying measures for sweetened beverages, alcohol and tobacco products, i.e. the prohibition of advertising, the prohibition of sales to persons under 21 years of age, and the prohibition of sales in all public institutions and in the vicinity thereof.

The members of both strategic councils also advocate mandatory health warnings on labels and measures to increase the accessibility of fruit and vegetables, in particular those produced in Slovenia and organically.