(Oct 16): Starting next year, Singapore will treat packaged sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola the way that other countries treat cigarettes. Advertisements will be banned, and a label attesting to a beverage's unhealthiness will be mandatory. The goal is to reduce the high rate of sugar consumption and associated health problems — such as diabetes and heart disease — that are now plaguing Southeast Asia.

The problem is quickly getting worse. Between 2010 and 2014, obesity surged 24% in Singapore, 27% in Malaysia and 38% in Vietnam. Left unaddressed, this epidemic could exact steep human and financial costs. Banning ads for sugary drinks won't solve the problem on its own. But if Singapore thinks a bit more ambitiously, it might provide a model for other emerging and newly developed countries needing to slim down.

It wasn't so long ago that much of Asia was associated with undernourishment. Thanks to a half-century of economic development and income growth, that’s no longer the case. Although hunger remains an issue in some areas, overall, Asians now have access to more and better food than ever — a fact reflected in rising life expectancies across the continent.

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