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What would you pay? Chewing the fat on the soft drink tax

Tuesday 28 February, 2012 by Laura

How much would you pay for a can of sugary soft drink: $1.50, $2, maybe even as much as three or four dollars? The reason I ask is that scientists from the University of California in San Francisco, are calling for taxes on sugar. They argue that a number of studies show that sugar has a direct impact on public health , similar to tobacco and alcohol.

When it comes to cancer, tobacco and alcohol have established links directly to disease, whereas increased sugar consumption has indirect links. Tobacco causes a massive one in five cancer deaths, and alcohol has been proven to increase the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, breast and bowel. Sugar does not cause cancer, but eating too much can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight .

Too much sugar is not only a dentist's nightmare but eating excessive amounts of sugar as part of an overall unhealthy diet and inactive lifestyle, can lead to obesity. This is where research does highlight a proven link to some types of cancer. Remember that having a waistline under 85cm for women and under 100cm for men , helps to significantly reduce the risk of bowel, breast and oesophagus cancer.

So would a tax on products that have added sugar be so bad? I think soft drinks - which can contain as much as 10 teaspoons of sugar per 375ml - should not be something that kids drink often, and ideally not at all. And adults need to know the risks of consuming so many ‘empty' kilojoules too.

The idea of trying to address global obesity levels through taxing unhealthy food and drinks is something that's being looked at as a strategy in various parts of the world. At the end of last year Denmark introduced a tax on food products high in saturated fats . Hungary also implemented a public health food tax on processed food high in added sugar and salt. Jane Martin, Executive Manager, Obesity Policy Coalition , says that we should keep an eye on the impact of the tax in these countries and the Australian Government should investigate it in line with the recommendations made by the National Preventative Health Taskforce.

No one likes taxes or rising costs, but price is a big driver when it comes to picking what you put in your supermarket trolley. And at the moment it's cheaper to buy unhealthy processed foods and cans of soft drink rather than bottles of water and fresh fruits and veggies.

I'm not suggesting the only way to prevent obesity and the associated cancers is simply though taxing unhealthy foods and drinks. But as part of bigger and broader multi-strategic approach, that includes reducing the cost of healthy foods, this seems like it could have a positive impact.

Back to the original question - when working out what you would pay for a can of soft drink, keep in mind the potential price you might pay with your health and the extra weight you could gain, as well as the dollar and cent cost.

The so called "fat tax" got some backlash but it's been identified as having potential to impact on buying behaviour, what you think of the idea of taxing sugar?

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