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Australian Health Groups Call For Sugar Tax

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

19 September 2017

A group of 34 Australian health organizations has called for the introduction of a 20 percent levy on sugary drinks.

Together, the groups have produced "Tipping the Scales," an action plan for addressing obesity.

According to this report, a levy that raises the price of sugary drinks by 20 percent is likely to significantly reduce consumption. It said that the levy could apply to all non-alcoholic beverages with added sugar, and could potentially exclude 100 percent fruit juices and milk-based drinks.

The report cited a 2016 study on the impact of a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, which it said showed that increasing the price by 20 percent could reduce consumption by 12.6 percent. The group calculated that a reduction in consumption on this scale has the potential to "generate a decline in the prevalence of obesity of 2.7 percent among men, and 1.2 percent among women, and could reduce the number of cases of type-2 diabetes by 800 per annum."

The report added that the levy would likely lead to the reformulation efforts by manufacturers, to reduce sugar content.

The group would like to see the revenue raised by any such levy allocated to a national obesity prevention strategy and to initiatives that support healthy lifestyles.

Releasing the report, Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, said: "Sixty-three percent of Australian adults and 27 percent of our children are overweight or obese. This is not surprising when you look at our environment – our kids are bombarded with advertising for junk food, high-sugar drinks are cheaper than water, and sugar and saturated fat are hiding on so-called 'healthy' foods. Making a healthy choice has never been more difficult."

The initiative was however rejected by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He was reported by The Guardian as saying: "I think we have enough taxes and there are enough imposts on us all when we go to the supermarket and we go shopping. The other thing is, too, where do you draw the line? There is a lot of sugar in a bottle of orange juice. Are you going to put a tax on that?"

"I think you are better off focusing on the health message, to get that across, so that people are more aware of what they are eating and the consequences of what they are eating."

TAGS: tax | value added tax (VAT) | goods and services tax (GST) | Australia | Health tax | tax rates | tax reform | trade association | trade | services

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