Should we have a ‘sugar tax’?

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Should we have a ‘sugar tax’?

Sugar tax

Could the UK’s New Sugary Drink Tax Make Its Way to Australia?

Sugary drinks causing obesity in children? Of course you know that – it’s not exactly breaking news to most of us parents. But, the new tax on sugary drinks in the UK is something that’s making headlines! Led by health advocates and crusaders, such as celeb chef Jamie Oliver, the UK Government recently announced that this tax is set to go into effect in 2018.

Why the sugar tax?

According to Jamie Oliver’s website, the step to add this tax demonstrates that the UK Government believes that “Enough is enough.” As the leading source of sugar in children’s diets, the added cost of the tax may mean that parents start making new (and better) drink choices. Even though there’s no guarantee that the tax will result in a reduction of sugary drink consumption, the estimated $732 million it raises (and, that’s just in the first year) will go towards funding school sports programs and breakfast clubs.

Which drinks are taxed?

Just because sugar is listed in the ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean that drink is subject to the UK’s tax. If a drink has a total sugar content above 5 grams per 100 milliliters, the sugar tax applies. Drinks with more than 8 grams of sugar per 100 milliliters are subject to an even higher tax rate. Primarily, this affects soda-type beverages (such as Coke and Pepsi).

Will this tax make it to Australia?

Possibly. Oliver certainly is pushing for the Australian government to respond in much the same way as the UK’s. Likewise, the majority of Australians support the idea. In a 2015 survey, the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) notes that Australians support a similar sugary drink tax. Eight-five percent of survey participants were in favor of the tax when it comes to decreasing childhood obesity. Eight-four percent of respondents also support the tax if it helped encourage children to play a sport.

The OPC’s Executive Manager Jane Martin also advocates for a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks — citing research on the ability of the tax to decrease overall consumption of these drinks.

Are sugary drinks really a problem in Australia?

Yes. Australia ranks in the top 10 of global markets for sugary drink consumption, according to the Australian National Preventive Health Agency. Projected supermarket sales data shows that a probable 1,627,701,086 liters of sugar drinks were sold in Australia in the year 2011 alone. Drinking sugary beverages is on the rise in Australia. Along with obesity, these drinks contribute to other health issues, including tooth decay, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and bone density problems. The empty calories in sugary drinks have no nutrient value to the diet, and often replace the much-needed vitamins and minerals found in healthy foods/beverages.

Is the tax enough?

It’s a start! Even though the plan isn’t to directly tax consumers, the added price (the tax goes to the manufacturers) would likely mean a mark-up to the total cost of the drinks at the retail level. That means you end up paying more. That said, it’s up to the consumer to decide whether they want to pay more for the sugary drink or stick with something less costly.

Even if the sugary drink tax is passed in Australia, that doesn’t mean an instant end to childhood obesity. Along with getting rid of sugar-filled non-nutritive beverages, children need to eat a healthy diet and engage in regular physical activity. This requires a healthy dose of nutrition education and the availability of athletic activities. Should the drink tax come to be, the resulting revenue could help to grow these parts of the child health equation!

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References:

Jamie Oliver, http://www.jamieoliver.com/theplan/

The Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3082577/Eight-10-Australians-want-new-tax-sugary-soft-drinks-tackle-childhood-obesity-willing-pay.html

Obesity Policy Coalition, http://www.opc.org.au/latestnews/mediareleases/pages/australia-should-follow-uk-with-sugary-drinks-tax.aspx#.VwlcCvkrKUk

Obesity Policy Coalition, http://www.opc.org.au/latestnews/mediareleases/pages/aussies-give-green-light-on-tax-for-sugar-filled-drinks.aspx#.VwlczfkrKUk

Australian National Preventive Health Agency, https://sydney.edu.au/medicine/public-health/menzies-health-policy/publications/Evidence_Brief_Sugar_sweetened_Beverages_Obesity_Health.PDF

 

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