Qatar tackles obesity epidemic with hefty 'junk food tax'

Qatar tackles obesity epidemic with hefty 'junk food tax'
2 min read
16 Feb, 2017
Qatari authorities have approved a draft law that could see junk food taxed in the tiny Gulf state, which has one of the world's fattest populations.
A 2012 report showed that Qatar was one of the fattest countries on earth [Getty]

Qatari authorities have approved a draft law that could see junk food taxed in the tiny Gulf state, which has one of the world's fattest populations.

Qatar's Cabinet gave the green light on Wednesday to new "selective taxes" that could be implemented as early as later April this year, Qatari state media reported.

"The selective tax will be imposed on goods harmful to human health and the environment, and the luxury goods produced domestically or imported," a government statement read.

The oil-rich state first announced the taxes last June, warning that tobacco, fast foods, and soft drinks would be taxed, local outlet Doha News reported.

Obesity is a massive societal problem in Qatar, which will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The far-reaching lifestyle changes that took place in the Gulf states following the region's sudden economic boom have had serious public health repercussions.

People are more and more sedentary, deeply attached to using their cars and eat a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates.

A 2012 report showed that Qatar was one of the fattest countries on earth with a staggering half of all adults being classified as obese and 17 percent of the population suffering from diabetes.

But hold on it wasn't all bad, this week neighbouring Saudi Arabia announced that women will be permitted to hit the gym for the first time, when the government distributes special licenses to sports centres this month.

The intention is to open a women's gym in every area, as part of a national health drive.

But the sports on offer will be restricted to individual activities like running and swimming, rather than team sports like football and basketball - presumably to avoid any overly zealous manifestations of esprit de corps.

Partly as a consequence of the conservative society preventing access to sports and exercise, a disproportionately high number of women in Saudi suffer from obesity and diabetes.