10 July 2018

Time ripe to press for tax on sugary drinks

Nutrition Obesity Public Health

A 20% price hike via a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) would create mean lifetime healthcare savings of $1.7 billon in Australia, researchers writing in the MJA say.

The tax would also generate an annual revenue boost of $640 million, the authors of the Perspective piece argued.

Dr Alessandro Demaio, CEO of the EAT Foundation, and Ms Alexandra Jones, a PhD candidate at the George Institute for Global Health, wrote that the costs to Australia of diet-related diseases were adding up.

“Australians are now much more likely to be obese than their parents were at the same age. At age two to five years, 8.8% of children in 2014-2015 were obese, compared with 4.2% two decades earlier … more obesity-related chronic conditions at younger ages will likely bring cascading increases in healthcare costs,” they wrote.

“It is time the price of SSBs at the register more accurately reflected the true cost of their consumption on Australia’s health and economy.”

Sugary drinks also contributed to oral disease and tooth decay, with poor oral health resulting in more than 63,000 preventable hospitalisations a year.

The authors argued that the time was now ripe for “co-ordinated, strategic and innovation action” from a “unified, agile collective” committed to improving Australia’s health and nutrition.

This collective needed to take advantage of the momentum generated by a domino effect of countries and regions globally adopting a sugar tax, and growing public and scientific support for the measure.