Is it time to tax sugary treats?

Based on US estimates, consuming one can of soft drink per day could lead to a 6.75 kg weight gain in one year.
Based on US estimates, consuming one can of soft drink per day could lead to a 6.75 kg weight gain in one year. Linden Morris

SUGAR in drinks is public enemy number one for three of the country's leading health organisations, with good reason, but not all agree that it should be singled out for attention in the fight against obesity.

Cancer Council, Diabetes Australia and the National Heart Foundation of Australia have joined forces for the first time to call for action by governments, schools and non-government organisations targeting sugary drinks, which is one of the key contributors to obesity.

One measure they have called for is a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to encourage consumers to reduce their intake.

However a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia believes we need to look at the broader causes of obesity rather than just focusing on sugary drinks.

"We support tighter regulation on the marketing of foods generally that don't have a whole lot of nutrition," DAA spokesperson Margaret Hays said.

"And we're not convinced that making certain foods (sugary drinks) more expensive necessarily means that people will stop buying it.

"Obesity is a complex problem and one thing to consider is that everything comes in a bigger package these days. Portion sizes in general have increased.

"So my number one message is eat less and drink less, full stop."

The three health organisations pointed to a 2007 study which found almost half (47%) of children aged two to 16 consuming sugar-sweetened beverages (including energy drinks) daily, with a quarter (25%) consuming sugary soft drinks daily.

Another recent study by Cancer Council and Heart Foundation found that one in five secondary schools in Australia had vending machines - 49% of which contained sports drinks, and 38% soft drinks.

The organisations have launched a TV campaign called Rethink Sugary Drink.

Other recommendations include a call for a social marketing campaign to highlight the health impacts of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, restrictions by governments to reduce children's exposure to marketing of sugary drinks through schools and sporting events and an investigation to reduce points of sale of such drinks to children.

A 600ml bottle of soft drink can contain up to 16 teaspoons or packets of sugar, according to leading health organisations.
A 600ml bottle of soft drink can contain up to 16 teaspoons or packets of sugar, according to leading health organisations. Contributed

SWEET FACTS

  • A 600ml sugar-sweetened soft drink contains about 16 packs/teaspoons of sugar.
  • Based on US estimates, consuming one can of soft drink per day could lead to a 6.75 kg weight gain in one year.
  • In the 12 months to October 2012, Australians bought 1.28 billion litres of carbonated/still drinks with sugar, with regular cola drinks being the most popular (447 million litres).

Reader poll

Do you avoid sugary drinks?

This poll ended on 25 January 2013.

Yes - 60%

No - 39%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Topics:  beverages, health, obesity, sugar, tax, weight




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