The AMA’s calls for a sugar tax build on those from the Obesity Policy Coalition, which in September set out an action plan titled ‘Tipping the Scales’, which recommended a 20% health levy on sugary drinks.
However, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull rejected calls for a sugar tax in September last year, saying the country has enough taxes.
The AMA has set out a series of recommendations this month for improving nutrition, saying this must become a priority for all levels of government.
“Sugary beverages provide individuals with large quantities of sugar and provide little or no satiety,” it says.
“Australians consume large quantities of soft drinks. Large container sizes of soft drinks are significantly cheaper than single serving sizes, which also contributes to overconsumption. Flavored waters, sports drinks and fruit juices also contain significant quantities of added sugars.
“Energy drinks are popular among young people. These beverages also contain large quantities of caffeine and should not be readily available to those aged under 18 years.
“The AMA supports proposals to apply a tax or levy to sugar-sweetened beverages in Australia in order to reduce consumption.”
The AMA says water should be promoted as the ‘default’ option. It also calls for vending machines with sugary drinks and unhealthy food items to be removed from all health care settings, or be replaced with machines offering healthy food and beverages.
Aussie’s sugar consumption
In 2011-12, Australians consumed an average of 60g of free sugar per day (around 14 teaspoons), with 52% of this coming from sugary drinks.
An individual can (375ml) may contain up to 40g (10 teaspoons) of added sugar.
In its September report, the Obesity Policy Coalition suggested that a 20% tax on sugary beverages could reduce consumption by 12.6%, drawing on a 2016 study from the University of Queensland, Deakin University and the Obesity Policy Coalition published in PLoS One.
“As part of a comprehensive approach to reducing sugary drink consumption, a levy on sugary drinks that raises price by 20% is likely to significantly reduce consumption, resulting in clear health benefits and contributing to the reduction of chronic disease in Australia,” said the report.
“A recent Australian study found that increasing the price of sugary drinks by 20% could reduce consumption by 12.6%. This reduction in consumption has the potential to generate a decline in the prevalence of obesity of 2.7% among men, and 1.2% among women, and could reduce the number of cases of type 2 diabetes by 800 per annum.
“The study also estimated that the levy could raise revenue in excess of A$400m ($313m) per year, even when taking into account changes in consumption in response to the tax.”