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Thailand’s Battle with Sugar: Pairoj Saonuam Leads Health Crusade to Curb Sweet Epidemic

Imagine waltzing into the enchanting Pa Hong sweet shop nestled in the bustling Wat Sommanat quarter of Bangkok. The aroma of sweet delicacies fills the air, tempting visitors with a kaleidoscope of colorful treats that promise a brief sojourn into bliss. Yet, lurking beneath the allure of these sugary delights is a startling statistic that casts a shadow over the Land of Smiles: the average Thai person consumes a staggering 23 teaspoons of sugar daily, nearly quadrupling the World Health Organization’s recommended cap of six teaspoons. This revelation, brought to light by the vigilant folks at the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth), underscores a dietary crisis brewing in the heart of Thailand.

At the helm of this sugar tsunami is Pairoj Saonuam, the diligent Assistant Chief Executive Officer of ThaiHealth, who voiced his concerns on a lazy Sunday that might as well have been dubbed “sugar awareness day”. Pairoj unpacked the grim reality: the sweet tooth of Thailand is not just a harmless craving but a voracious appetite fueling a plethora of health calamities including heart attacks, strokes, dreaded cancers, and the ever-increasing diabetes rates that are keeping Thai families on the edge of their seats.

Where does this avalanche of sugar originate, you ask? Look no further than the seemingly innocuous bottle of sugary drink tucked away in every corner of Thai life. Pairoj pointed an accusatory finger at the manufacturers of these liquid sugar mines, urging them to dial back on the sweetness for the sake of the nation’s health.

In a striking counter-move, ThaiHealth has not been idle. Joining forces with the Excise Department, Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Public Health, they launched a crusade under the auspices of the Excise Act 2017, wielding a formidable weapon: the sugar tax. This ingenious stratagem targeted the sugary villains, placing them under a financial siege that hoped to turn the tide in favor of healthier alternatives.

And behold, the impact was nothing short of miraculous. Like a refreshing dawn after a stormy night, the sugar tax ushered in a 35% surge in the sales of less sugary potions. A beacon of light in the fog of sugar warfare, this policy maneuver managed to curb the national sugar consumption to the current 23 teaspoons per day – a notable dip from the alarming 27 teaspoons of 2017. This marked victory was echoed by data from the Office of the Cane and Sugar Board, solidifying hope for a healthier Thai horizon.

The tax structure was no slapdash affair; it was a meticulously crafted stratagem distinguishing beverages based on their sugar content per 100 milliliters. The taxman’s scale ranged from the tax-exempt realm of below six grammes to the echelons of sweetness that commanded a tax, scaling from a modest 30 satang per litre for 6-8g of sugar to the pinnacle of taxation, a hefty five baht per litre for the sweetest of the sweet containing more than 18g of sugar.

As Thailand navigates through this sugary saga, the journey of Pa Hong and other sweet sanctuaries in the bustling streets of Bangkok carry on. The story of sugar in Thailand is a testament to the country’s resolve in grappling with a silent adversary, wielding the power of policy to carve a path towards a healthier tomorrow. So the next time you find yourself under the hypnotic spell of a sweet treat, remember, a spoonful of sugar might make the medicine go down, but a mindful choice could very well keep the doctor away.


  1. Jenny Hart February 11, 2024

    Honestly, combating sugar consumption with taxes? It feels like a superficial solution to a deeper problem. What about education and lifestyle changes? Taxes alone won’t change people’s habits.

    • HealthAdvocate101 February 11, 2024

      I agree that education plays a crucial role, but history shows that taxes on products harmful to health (like cigarettes) can significantly reduce consumption. It’s a multi-faceted approach.

      • sweettoothSam February 11, 2024

        Why should the government dictate what I drink or eat? What’s next, a tax on fried foods? Let people live their lives!

      • Jenny Hart February 11, 2024

        That’s a fair point, HealthAdvocate101. I hadn’t considered the precedent set by tobacco. A combined approach could indeed be more effective.

    • RealistRay February 11, 2024

      Taxes are a way for the government to cash in under the guise of public health. It’s all about revenue, not our well-being.

  2. TraditionalTom February 11, 2024

    Isn’t it ironic? We glorify the traditional diets of our ancestors but criticize the modern Thai’s sweet tooth. Sugar is deeply ingrained in Thai culture. Why suddenly the outrage?

    • ModNutrition February 11, 2024

      It’s not about eliminating sugar entirely but moderating intake to reduce health risks. Traditional diets were balanced; the modern diet tends towards excess.

  3. DietSodaDebater February 11, 2024

    If the government really cared about health, they’d ban sugary drinks, not just tax them. Are they serious about this health crusade or is it just another revenue stream?

    • LibertyLover February 11, 2024

      Banning things isn’t the answer. People should have the freedom to choose, but with education and alternatives provided. Bans just create black markets.

    • Jenny Hart February 11, 2024

      Bans seem too extreme. Taxes, while not perfect, offer a middle ground by disincentivizing without outright denying consumer choice.

  4. EconWatcher February 11, 2024

    Has anyone considered the economic impact of this sugar tax on small businesses? Especially those traditional shops dependent on selling sweet treats?

    • SmallBizOwner February 11, 2024

      As a small confectionery shop owner, the tax has definitely hurt us. We’ve had to raise prices, and I’m worried about losing customers over this.

    • HealthAdvocate101 February 11, 2024

      The health of a nation should take precedence over profits. Maybe it’s time businesses adapted to healthier options to retain customers.

  5. sweettoothSam February 11, 2024

    I get the health concerns, but life’s too short to not enjoy the sweet things. Moderation is key, not taxes.

    • Jenny Hart February 11, 2024

      Moderation is easier said than done for many, especially with sugar being so addictive. Taxes could help manage consumption, making moderation more feasible.

    • KetoKevin February 11, 2024

      Once I cut sugar from my diet, my health improved drastically. It’s tough, but the benefits of reducing sugar intake can’t be overstated.

  6. PolicyPundit February 11, 2024

    The sugar tax is a step in the right direction, but it needs to be part of a broader strategy including education, community programs, and promoting healthier alternatives.

  7. LibertyLover February 11, 2024

    Why is everyone so eager to have the government control what we eat and drink? Shouldn’t personal responsibility and freedom of choice come first?

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