Health Groups Say a Tax on Sugary Drinks Would Help Stem Obesity in Australian Children

Wednesday, 21st January 2015

Leading health groups have suggested that taxing sugary drinks would assist in stemming the increase in childhood obesity as well as saving Australia billions of dollars in medical expenses.

Four health organisations have joined together to push for the federal government to begin a strategy for national obesity.

Australia has one of the world's highest obesity rates, with 1 in 4 children and 63 percent of adults being obese or overweight.

A survey of 1,016 respondents revealed that 85% felt that damaging eating habits were a major problem for the children of Australia.

Half of the respondents were in approval of the government placing a tax on sugary drinks and junk food, comparable to the taxes in place on tobacco and alcohol.

Public Health Association of Australia, Obesity Policy Coalition, Heart Foundation and The Consumers Health Forum believe that a tax on sugary drinks would improve children's health and decrease the cost of obesity, which is approximated to be $61billion annually.

The groups discovered that 77% of the respondents were in support of making the health star system compulsory for all packaged food.

Fiona Nash, assistant health minister, initiated the star rating labels at the end of last year. Under this system, consumer products are rated between a half star and 5 stars, in accordance with their fat, salt, sugar and energy content.

The groups also ask Sussan Ley, federal health minister, to tighten the marketing regulations for junk food.

According to the Obesity Policy Coalition, the existing system that junk food corporations self-regulate market to children is a 'sham'.

The coalition's executive manager, Jane Martin, believes that children are constantly being showered with unhealthy food promotions through digital apps, junior sport, social media and on the television.

It has been stated by The Consumers Health Forum that government and industry are essential information providers when it comes to nutrition and healthy eating.

The forum's chief executive, Adam Stankevicius, says that improving the availability of information rather than 'blaming' customers for their obesity will have a winning outcome.

He presses that there is extensive support throughout the community for action against unhealthy eating, and that the implementation costs would be minimal. He believes that there will be lasting benefits for the industry, government, consumers and public health of Australia.