Most support soft-drink tax

Cathy O'Leary Medical Editor

More than three-quarters of West Australians support a tax on soft drink, according to a survey.

Commissioned by State Gov-ernment funded anti-obesity campaign LiveLighter, the poll of 1000 people found 78 per cent favoured a soft-drink tax and to use the revenue to reduce the cost of healthy foods.

The poll finding came as the soft-drink industry continued to lobby the Government to scrap a LiveLighter advertisement about sugary drinks.

The Australian Beverages Council wrote to Health Minister Kim Hames last month complaining that the advertisement warning people not to have more than six teaspoons of sugar a day was misleading.

Chief executive Geoff Parker said the advertisement had misrepresented draft guidelines by the World Health Organisation.

"We're all for consumers being made aware of risk factors around obesity but it needs to be backed with science, and we think the current LiveLighter campaign is taking a few liberties around the WHO recommendations," he said.

"At the end of the day, it's taxpayers' money being used and we don't think the Government has done due diligence in how it is being spent."

But Heart Foundation chief executive Maurice Swanson argued soft-drink advertising was not based on evidence, citing a recent advertisement that equated Coca-Cola with happiness.

"The marketing of sugary soft drinks is misleading and there is strong support in the WA community for a tax to be placed on soft drinks," Mr Swanson said.

Dr Hames said the Health Department contracted the Heart Foundation to deliver the campaign and was responsible for claims in the advertisements.

"Obesity is a serious and complex health issue requiring a comprehensive long-term approach, in which both government and industry have a role to play," Dr Hames said.

"The LiveLighter campaign is a key part of this approach and aims to increase awareness of the health risks of being overweight and obesity and to promote healthier food and lifestyle choices in line with the Australian dietary guidelines.

"It has an important role in stimulating public debate about ways to address these issues."