Public health leaders unite to call for health levy on sugary drinks

health levy sugary drinks
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Leading Australian public health organisations are calling for a 20 per cent health levy on sugary drink manufacturers, with new research revealing the policy could reduce Australians’ annual sugar intake by 2.6 kilograms per person and raise billions of dollars for health initiatives.

Members of the Rethink Sugary Drink alliance—including the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Cancer Council Australia, the Australian Dental Association, Food for Health Alliance, and Heart Foundation—have launched a new position statement urging the government to introduce the 20 per cent health levy on sugary drink manufacturers.

The statement is backed by new AMA research that found a 20 per cent health levy on sugary drinks could raise around $1 billion each year, which could be used to fund crucial obesity prevention and other health initiatives.

AMA president Professor Steve Robson said the research also showed the policy could slash the amount of sugar Australians consume every year by nearly 2.6 kilograms per person, or approximately 650 teaspoons of sugar.

“This policy really is a no-brainer—it would raise vital funds for preventive health and protect Australians’ health by decreasing the risk of diseases linked to excess weight like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers,” Professor Robson said.

“Our modelling shows that a 20 per cent health levy on sugary drink manufacturers could raise around $4 billion over four years. These funds could be invested into crucial health promotion campaigns, reducing pressure on our stretched health system.”

Dr Angie Nilsson, ADA Federal Board director added that over time the policy would also improve health equity and dental health in Australia.

“We know that just one 600mL bottle of soft drink can pack a shocking 16 teaspoons of sugar and is highly acidic. Frequently gulping down sugary drinks can increase the risk of issues including tooth decay, sensitivity and erosion,” Dr Nilsson said.

“Looking to countries that already have a health levy, like Mexico, it’s clear that this policy can have a positive impact on population smiles as well as diets, with the greatest dental health benefits likely to be experienced by Australians from lower socio-economic backgrounds.” 

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