Sugary Drink Can

About 650,000 Victorians drink sugary drinks daily, put health at risk

8 February 2017 

Health experts say levy on sugary drinks urgently needed

As many as one in four adults in some parts of regional Victoria drink sugary drinks every day, despite being a contributor to high rates of overweight and obesity.

Around one in nine Victorian adults – the equivalent of about 650,000 people – drink sugary drinks every day, and one in two Victorian adults are overweight or obese, new figures show.

The 13 health and community organisations behind Rethink Sugary Drink say the latest data from the Victorian Population Health Survey1 highlights the impact regular sugary drink consumption is having on Australia's weight problem.

"We know that regular sugary drink consumption is a contributor to overweight and obesity, and this new data is further proof of how sugary drinks are contributing to obesity in local communities, right here in Victoria," Kidney Health Australia's CEO, Mikaela Stafrace, said.

"On average, one in nine Victorian adults are drinking sugary drinks every day, but in some regional areas it's as many as one in four adults, and for young people this figure is even higher. Rates of overweight and obesity are also worryingly high with around one in two Victorian adults being overweight or obese."

Regular consumption of sugary drinks, such as soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and iced teas, can lead to serious health problems in the short and long term.

"Sugary drinks are extremely high in sugar – a 600mL bottle of soft drink contains around 16 teaspoons of sugar, while a large 500mL can of energy drink has as many as 21 teaspoons. Downing sugary drinks on a regular basis can lead to weight gain and obesity, which put you at greater risk of kidney and heart disease, cancer – including kidney cancer, type 2 diabetes and stroke. In the shorter term it can also lead to tooth decay," Kidney Health Australia's CEO, Mikaela Stafrace, said.

Rethink Sugary Drink is calling for a health levy on sugary drinks, among other strategies, to tackle Australia's love affair with sugary drinks and raise money to fund vital obesity prevention initiatives.

"We must take swift action to address the growing burden that overweight and obesity are having on our society, and a levy on sugary drinks is a vital step in this process," Craig Sinclair, Head of Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria, a Rethink Sugary Drink partner, said.

"A 20 per cent sugary drinks levy can reduce consumption, slow obesity rates and ultimately save lives, while raising up to $400m a year for initiatives to reduce obesity, particularly in children.2

"The World Health Organization is urging governments around the world to levy sugary drinks. Mexico, the UK, Hungary, France and Norway are among countries that have already committed to a sugary drinks levy. Given the size of the obesity problem here in Australia, we really need to get on board as well. The Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of GPs, the Grattan Institute are among many agencies also advocating for such a policy – now we need the Federal Government to show its support and make it happen. Our nation's weight problem won't fix itself." 

In addition to a sugary drinks levy, the Rethink Sugary Drink alliance recommends the following actions to tackle sugary drink consumption:

  • A public education campaign supported by Australian governments to highlight the health impacts of regular sugary drink consumption
  • Restrictions by Australian governments to reduce children's exposure to marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages, including through schools and children's sports, events and activities
  • Comprehensive mandatory restrictions by state governments on the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages (and increased availability of free water) in schools, government institutions, children's sports and places frequented by children
  • Development of policies by state and local governments to reduce the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in workplaces, government institutions, health care settings, sport and recreation facilities and other public places.

Daily sugary drink consumption and overweight/obesity rates by Victorian LGA

Victorian LGA

Daily sugary drink consumers (%)

Rate of overweight/obesity %

Alpine

12.5

46.3

Ararat

14.0

58.9

Ballarat

13.0

60.6

Banyule

11.9

49.3

Bass Coast

16.1

46.6

Baw Baw

12.8

52.7

Bayside 

3.1

42.3

Benalla

20.4

54.9

Boroondara

5.2

36.9

Brimbank

9.8

48.0

Buloke 

24.3

56.1

Campaspe  

17.5

62.4

Cardinia 

14.7

53.6

Casey 

15.9

54.4

Central Goldfields

16.9

49.4

Colac-Otway

22.5

55.2

Corangamite 

15.9

64.1

Darebin

11.8

49.4

East Gippsland

19.0

54.4

Frankston 

15.4

54.0

Gannawarra  

15.0

40.0

Glen Eira 

5.6

44.9

Glenelg 

11.2

57.1

Golden Plains

19.6

49.3

Greater Bendigo

10.4

53.3

Greater Dandenong 

7.3

45.0

Greater Geelong 

11.5

49.1

Greater Shepparton

13.3

56.6

Hepburn

11.6

52.5

Hindmarsh

7.9

59.1

Hobsons Bay

8.9

51.6

Horsham

14.4

46.2

Hume

15.8

61.9

Indigo

15.0

50.0

Kingston 

11.4

56.8

Knox

8.5

54.2

Latrobe

16.0

58.6

Loddon  

21.9

65.7

Macedon Ranges  

11.0

45.3

Manningham 

8.2

44.0

Mansfield

20.7

44.1

Maribyrnong

5.5

46.8

Maroondah

21.4

48.3

Melbourne

6.9

35.8

Melton 

14.3

57.0

Mildura  

9.3

53.2

Mitchell

16.8

58.3

Moira

17.3

60.2

Monash

10.2

46.0

Moonee Valley 

9.4

52.1

Moorabool

16.8

59.3

Moreland 

10.9

43.0

Mornington Peninsula 

9.9

50.0

Mount Alexander 

12.1

35.2

Moyne  

13.5

54.7

Murrindindi

21.1

59.7

Nillumbik 

8.6

52.2

Northern Grampians

17.9

45.5

Port Phillip 

5.3

38.2

Pyrenees

12.5

65.8

Queenscliffe 

7.0

43.5

South Gippsland

15.0

59.1

Southern Grampians  

15.0

53.9

Stonnington 

8.9

40.8

Strathbogie

13.8

59.3

Surf Coast  

8.7

45.0

Swan Hill 

15.7

60.7

Towong

12.8

58.2

Wangaratta

19.2

50.0

Warrnambool

7.5

59.3

Wellington

20.6

54.1

West Wimmera

12.6

68.0

Whitehorse

7.3

38.7

Whittlesea 

14.0

55.7

Wodonga

11.6

56.3

Wyndham 

15.0

57.9

Yarra 

7.7

35.7

Yarra Ranges

10.7

49.5

Yarriambiack

20.2

63.5

Victorian state average

11.2

50.0

Source: Victorian Population Health Survey 2014

About Rethink Sugary Drink: Rethink Sugary Drink is a partnership between the Australian Dental Association, Cancer Council Australia, Dental Health Services Victoria, Dental Hygienists Association of Australia, Diabetes Australia, Heart Foundation, Kidney Health Australia, Nutrition Australia, Obesity Policy Coalition, Stroke Foundation, Parents' Voice, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the YMCA to raise awareness of the amount of sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages and encourage Australians to reduce their consumption. Visit www.rethinksugarydrink.org.au for more information.

For media enquiries please contact:
Shannon Crane 0432 157 270 shannon.crane@cancervic.org.au 
Cassandra Bradshaw 0402 346 197 Cassandra.Bradshaw@kidney.org.au

1. Victorian Population Health Survey 2014: Modifiable risk factors contributing to chronic disease in Victoria

2. L. Veerman, G. Sacks, N. Antonopoulos and J. Martin, The Impact of a Levy on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages on Health and Health Care Costs: A Modelling Study, PLOS ONE, April 13, 2016.

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