Would you be willing to pay a health tax on soft drinks? That’s the idea being pushed by a new health campaign.
It’s scary when you consider the average Aussie drinks a huge 100 litres of soft drink, equating to 10 kilos of sugar, a year. Thanks to these habits, the Cancer Council, Diabetes Australia and the Heart Foundation of Australia have joined forces in a campaign called ‘Rethink sugary drink’, to tackle what they see to be a key contributor to obesity.
Sugary drinks (not just soft drink, but also energy drinks, cordials and some juices) aren’t just a problem for our weight. Research also shows drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is a major risk factor for tooth decay and cavities.
The same research found 56 per cent of Aussie kids aged five to 16 drank more than one sugary drink a day – now that’s alarming!
Part of the ‘Rethink sugary drink’ campaign is a proposal for a tax on drinks with a high sugar level. But, if a can of soft drink cost $5 instead of $2.50, would it really make a difference? If the Danish fat tax is anything to go by, a tax alone may not make a big difference. The fat tax was introduced two years ago on high saturated-fat foods, but was soon repealed as it failed to deter the Danes’ food habits.
Here in Australia, in addition to a new tax, the group is pushing for restriction of the sale and marketing of sugary drinks – for instance, limiting availability at school canteens and in workplaces. They’ve also started a TV ad campaign, which encourages us to switch to water and reduced-fat milk as healthier choices. The ad highlights that if you drink a 600ml soft drink you’re basically downing 16 teaspoons of sugar in one go.
This multi-faceted lobbying may see soft drinks go the way of cigarettes which, thanks to the ads, plain packaging and restricted smoking areas, has seen smoking decline drastically.
The Australian Dental Association has also jumped on board. They’re calling for warning labels on sugary drinks to show the damage that can be done to teeth. Consider a ghoulish photo of a mouth full of cavities on your bottle of cola, would you still drink it? There’s nothing wrong with the odd soft drink or juice, but our current habits aren’t good enough. How often do you hear ‘I just don’t like water’?
We can try to blame vending machines in schools and workplaces – and even try to blame soft drink companies. But, I think it’s important we remember that as individuals we have a choice. It’s up to us to pick what we (and our kids) drink. A little change may be in the air, even if it’s one glass of water at a time.