Australia is 'odd one out' on sugar tax

Australia should follow the global trend and put a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks or remain the "odd one out", the Australian Medical Association says.

The doctors' lobby group has renewed calls for the impost, releasing a new report showing another 40 global jurisdictions have introduced a sugar tax since June 2021, taking the total to 85.

Australians drink enough sugary drinks to fill 960 Olympic swimming pools each year, and the government should "help" people break their sugar addiction and choose water instead, vice president Danielle McMullen said on Friday.

The federal government could apply a tax of 40 cents for every 100 grams of sugar that manufacturers add to drinks, Dr McMullen said.

"That will mean just a 16-cent increase to the price of a regular can of fizzy drink, but for that, you'll get a great health outcome," she said.

The association estimates a tax would, over 25 years, result in 16,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 1100 fewer cases of stroke, and 4400 fewer cases of heart disease.

It would also generate annual revenue of up to $814 million that could go toward preventative health measures, Dr McMullen said.

"It's no wonder 85 governments across the globe are choosing to tax sugary drinks and other products this way, because the evidence is showing it's effective at reducing consumption of these products and raising revenue, so why not in Australia?

"It's just baffling why Australia is unwilling to take advantage of this win-win-situation, especially at a time when healthcare costs are under the spotlight, you'd think the government would take every opportunity to reduce the chronic disease burden on the health system and improve its bottom line at the same time."

Sugary drinks erode and decay teeth, according to the association's "Why tax sugary drinks?" report.

The report highlights four in 10 Australian children have dental caries in their baby teeth.

Caries develop when mouth bacteria metabolise sugars, producing acid which eats away at teeth enamel and dentine.