Sugar levy a must for next govt: experts

·2-min read

A tax on soft drinks might be the only way to stop Australians drinking nearly 2.5 billion litres of fizzy drinks a year, health authorities say.

A group of prominent public health bodies wants the next federal government to introduce a 20 per cent levy to drive consumption down by about 31 per cent over four years.

Data released last month by the Australia Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that being overweight is the most costly risk factor for Australia's health spending by disease.

Australian Medical Association President Omar Khorshid says introducing a levy on sugary drinks will send a price signal to consumers that the product is unhealthy.

"It also incentivises manufacturers to reformulate these drinks to reduce the sugar content," he said.

The urgent plea amid the federal election campaign comes as new University of Queensland research shows 15 per cent of young children are drinking two or more soft drinks a day.

Children who regularly consume cans of cola are 1.5 times likely to have weight problems and tooth decay.

Cancer Council Victoria Director of Prevention, Craig Sinclair, says drastic action needs to be taken on sugary drink consumption to address the obesity crisis.

"Australians are drinking 2.4 billion litres of sugary drinks every year," he said.

"With a regular 600ml bottle of soft drink containing around 16 teaspoons of sugar alone.

"This figure is almost unfathomable and it's having a serious impact on our health."

Some of the serious chronic diseases caused by obesity include type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

The public health experts say a sugar levy would see 16,000 fewer type 2 diabetes cases, 4440 fewer heart disease cases and 1100 fewer stroke cases over a 25-year period.

"If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything it's that healthy people are key to a healthy, functioning society," Mr Sinclair said.

"It's time for the incoming government now to take action."

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