Opinion

Soft drink tax – what a sweet idea

by
September 22, 2016

Last year it was Australians guzzled 1.1 billion litres of sugar drinks from supermarkets alone.

That costing approximately $2.2 billion.

How much more was drunk, and paid for, in milk bars, kiosks and at clubs and pubs can only be guessed.

But in the final analysis there is no doubt the consumption has been, and still is, massive.

So is the cost way beyond the cost of the initial drink.

That sugary drinks are associated with poor dental health and our dramatically increasing rates of obesity is undeniable.

That they target our children and adolescents is tragic.

In the past few years the World Health Organisation has classified obesity as a chronic illness.

Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, all of which are rife in Australia.

There have already been a number of countries who have improved the health of their populations by introducing a sugary drinks tax – just this year that has included the UK and South Africa, joining countries such as Mexico, Hungary, France and Chile with implementation of taxes.

An Australian research paper has recently been released in PLOS ONE (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0151460) after the UK announced its sugar tax on soft drinks in March.

The UK Tax is to be implemented in 2018 with the revenue raised going back into improving childhood obesity rates, a massive win for public health there.

This article has had mixed responses.

The public health sector is pleased, whereas the food industry is, obviously, opposed to the changes.

The report above looked into Australia and how a tax similar to what the UK has decided on would impact Australians.

The statistics speak for themselves, they found over the long term “with a 20 per cent increase in the cost of sugary drinks it would save 1600 lives, prevent 4400 heart attacks and 1100 strokes”.

That is a huge saving of human life.

It would also save the healthcare system $609 million, with this money being used to improve health outcomes.

The article also estimated rates of Type 2 Diabetes would fall by 800 per year – at the moment Diabetes Australia estimates 280 people develop the disease every day.

As someone working with people affected by diabetes, heart disease and obesity on a daily basis, I see the benefit a soft drink tax as glaringly essential.

It is still leaving consumers with a choice and the revenue raised can be used to deal with the health issues faced such as childhood obesity or food insecurity.

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