Australian Doctors Intensify Calls for the Federal Government to Implement a Sugary Soft Drink Tax

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The Australian Medical Association (AMA) urges the federal government to take action against rising obesity levels in Australia by calling for a new 16-cent levy on every can of sugar-sweetened drinks sold.

According to the AMA, Australia could raise $814 million annually by imposing a sugar tax on carbonated beverages, which 85 other countries have previously adopted.

“We keep bringing it up because it’s still a problem. Australians are consuming too many sugar-sweetened beverages,” said AMA’s vice president, Dr Danielle McMullen.

The AMA’s Sickly Sweet campaign highlights that the average 375ml soft drink has up to 50 grams of sugar, which is more than double the daily recommended amount. Australians drink more than 2.4 billion litres of sugary beverages per year.

The largest medical group called for the federal government to impose a levy of 40 cents for every 100 grams of added sugar to soft drinks on Friday.

The tax, which would amount to 16 cents for a standard can of beverage, would be imposed for two purposes, according to the AMA: to deter consumption, lower the incidence of linked health disorders, and collect money for public health campaigns and preventive actions.

“Over a 25-year period, we estimate this would result in 16,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 4,400 fewer cases of heart disease, and 1,100 fewer cases of stroke,” McMullen said.

Under the AMA proposal, no tax would be levied on fruit juice, cordial or milk-based beverages, zero-sugar soft drinks, or drinks sweetened with other ingredients.

Although McMullen acknowledged the “challenges” of massive summertime promotion of sugar-sweetened beverages to families and children, he claimed that even a 16-cent levy might affect shifting habits.

With obesity levels already rising and health costs expected to continue climbing, action must be taken to protect future generations from preventable illnesses and their associated costs. 

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