Sugar in baby’s bottle hits home health messages to Australian students

16 February 2017 

A Victorian advertisement depicting an infant drinking straight sugar from a bottle has been voted the most effective campaign to make young people aware of the health effects of sugary drinks by more than 700 primary and secondary school students across the country, as part of the Critics' Choice program developed by Rethink Sugary Drink.

The clear winner among the nine public health TV commercials was ‘You wouldn't eat 16 teaspoons of sugar', developed by Rethink Sugary Drink.

Second choice was an ad developed by the New York City department of health and adapted by Rethink Sugary Drink that shows a man drinking fat. Both ads graphically highlight the health effects of regularly consuming sugary drinks.

In contrast, a joyful hip hop styled television commercial from the Northern Territory ‘H20 is the way to go' was voted third most effective in delivering health messages.

Primary and secondary schools across the country were invited to participate in the program which included teacher resources and lesson plans. Each vote was entered into a random prize draw. The three lucky schools to win a $500 sporting equipment voucher are:

  • The Friends' School: North Hobart, TAS
  • Perth Modern School: Subiaco, WA
  • Nathalia Secondary College: Nathalia, VIC 

Craig Sinclair, Director of Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria (a Rethink Sugary Drink partner) said the results highlighted the need for governments to invest in public education campaigns such as ads that make young people aware of the health effects of sugary drinks. 

"Teenagers and young adults, especially males, drink the most sugary drinks – some young men consume as much as 1.5L per day[i]. But many don't realise that regularly downing sugary drinks is bad for your teeth and can lead to weight gain and obesity, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart and kidney disease, stroke and some cancers," Mr Sinclair said.

"The results of the Rethink Sugary Drink Critic's Choice competition highlight what we've known about anti-tobacco advertising for many decades – that graphic, hard-hitting ads work well in conveying complex health messages for younger audiences.

"With 27% of Australian children overweight or obese, we urgently need governments to invest in campaigns like these if we are to make a real difference to the lives of future generations."

The Dental Hygienists Association of Australia President, Dr Melanie Hayes, said consuming sugary drinks regularly can cause serious irreversible damage to teeth.

"A regular 600mL bottle of soft drink contains around 16 teaspoons of sugar as well as acid. Sugary drinks, like soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks, produce more acid when the sugar combines with bacteria in the mouth, weakening tooth enamel potentially leading to tooth decay," Dr Hayes said.

"Tooth decay is the most prevalent disease in Australia – alarmingly, around 48 per cent of Australian children have experienced tooth decay by the age of five and almost 69 per cent by the age of nine[ii]. It's vital that we get the message about sugary drinks out to young people.

"Try drinking water instead – it has no acid and no sugar, and if you get it from the tap it's free."

For more information about the Rethink Sugary Drink Critics' Choice initiative visit

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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 for more information.

For media enquiries please contact:
Rebecca Cook 0438 316 435 /

[i] Sweetened* beverage consumption, Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12, Australian Bureau of Statistics

[ii] Child Dental Health Survey 2010, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare