Ten of Australia’s leading health and community organisations have today joined forces to call on the Federal Government to introduce a health levy on sugary drinks as part of a comprehensive approach to tackling the nation’s serious obesity problem.

The 10 groups – all partners of the Rethink Sugary Drink campaign – have signed a joint position statement calling for a health levy on sugary drinks, with the revenue to be used to support public education campaigns and initiatives to prevent chronic disease and address childhood obesity.

This latest push further strengthens the chorus of calls in recent months from other leading organisations, including the Australian Medical Association, the Grattan Institute, the Australian Council of Social Services and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Craig Sinclair, Chair of the Public Health Committee at Cancer Council Australia, a signatory of the new position statement, said a health levy on sugary drinks in Australia has the potential to reduce the growing burden of chronic disease that is weighing on individuals, the healthcare system and the economy.

“The 10 leading health and community organisations behind today’s renewed push have joined forces to highlight the urgent and serious need for a health levy on sugary drinks in Australia,” Mr Sinclair said.

“Beverages are the largest source of free sugars in the Australian diet, and we know that sugary drink consumption is associated with increased energy intake and in turn, weight gain and obesity. Sugary drink consumption also leads to tooth decay.

“Evidence shows that a 20 per cent health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages in Australia could reduce consumption and prevent thousands of cases of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke over 25 years, while generating $400-$500m in revenue each year to support public education campaigns and initiatives to prevent chronic disease and address childhood obesity.

“The Australian Government must urgently take steps to tackle our serious weight problem. It is simply not going to fix itself.”

Ari Kurzeme, Advocacy Manager for the YMCA, also a signatory of the new position statement, said young Australians, people in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and socially disadvantaged groups have the most to gain from a sugary drinks levy.

“Young Australians, people in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and socially disadvantaged groups are the highest consumers of sugary drinks. These groups are also most responsive to price changes, and are likely to gain the largest health benefit from a levy on sugary drinks due to reduced consumption,” Ms Kurzeme said.

“A health levy on sugary drinks is not a silver bullet – it is a vital part of a comprehensive approach to tackling obesity, which includes restrictions on children’s exposure to marketing of these products, restrictions on their sale in schools, other children’s settings and public institutions, and effective public education campaigns.

“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.”

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.

 

The 10 organisations calling for a health levy on sugary drinks are: the Australian Dental Association, Cancer Council Australia, Dental Hygienists Association of Australia, Diabetes Australia, Heart Foundation, Kidney Health Australia, Obesity Policy Coalition, Stroke Foundation, Parents’ Voice, and the YMCA.