Leading health experts applaud US for tax on soft drinks

Groups call for investigation into similar tax in Australia

The coalition of health organisations behind the Rethink Sugary Drink campaign has congratulated Berkeley for becoming the first US city to approve a tax on sugary drinks, suggesting Australia should also investigate a similar tactic.

With sugary drinks and weight-related health problems closely linked, leading experts from the Cancer Council, Diabetes Australia and the Heart Foundation say the new tax is a victory for the health of Americans.

"Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is associated with a range of serious health issues including weight gain and obesity, which in turn are risk factors for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer," Craig Sinclair, Chair of the Public Health Committee at Cancer Council Australia, says.

An investigation into a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages or sugar-sweetened soft drinks in Australia is one of the five key recommendations of the Rethink Sugary Drink campaign.

"Australia is among the top 10 countries for per capita consumption of soft drinks. Research shows that a retail price increase of around 20 per cent would be the most effective in reducing the consumption of these sugar-laden drinks," Mr Sinclair says.

"With Australia's obesity epidemic showing no signs of slowing down, we encourage Australian governments to take note of the move in the US and investigate a similar tax to encourage Australians to limit their sugar-sweetened beverages consumption."

Key recommendations to tackle consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages

  1. A social marketing campaign, supported by Australian governments, to highlight the health impacts of sugar-sweetened beverages consumption and encourage people to reduce their consumption levels.
  2. An investigation by the Federal Department of Treasury and Finance into tax options to increase the price of sugar-sweetened beverages or sugar-sweetened soft drinks, with the aim of changing purchasing habits and achieving healthier diets.
  3. Comprehensive 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.
  4. Comprehensive restrictions by state governments on the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in all schools (primary and secondary), and encouraging restriction at places frequented by children, such as activity centres and at children's sports and events (with adequate resources to ensure effective implementation, monitoring and evaluation).
  5. An investigation by state and local governments into the steps that may be taken to reduce the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in workplaces, government institutions, health care settings and other public places.

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