AMA launches report: A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages

Australian Medical Association

The AMA has called for a tax on sugary drinks as a key plank of its plan to tackle chronic disease and make Australia the healthiest country in the world.

In his first address to the National Press Club in Canberra, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said that Australia lags behind comparable nations in health outcomes and disease prevention, and it was ‘time for action’ to reduce consumption of sugar-filled drinks.

“More than 2.4 billion litres of sugary drinks are consumed every year in Australia. That’s enough to fill 960 Olympic sized swimming pools,” Dr Khorshid said.

“Diabetes, obesity and poor vascular health are huge contributors to the burden on our health system.

“Sugary drinks – and, in particular, those which have little or no nutritional value – fuel this problem,” he said.

The tax proposed in the AMA’s report, A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages: Modelled impacts on sugar consumption and government revenue would raise the retail price of the average supermarket sugary drink by 20 per cent. This would be an important first step towards tackling obesity and raise revenue to take further steps.

The rise is in line with a World Health Organization recommendation and could, over a 25-year period, result in 16,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 4,400 fewer cases of heart disease and 1,100 fewer cases of stroke.

Dr Khorshid highlighted that in addition to saving lives, and millions of dollars in healthcare costs, it would also generate revenue – about $814 million annually – which could be spent on other preventative activities.

Dr Khorshid explained the modest tax would only apply to sugary soft drinks – those which have no, or very little nutritional value.

The AMA’s report notes Australia lags behind more than 45 jurisdictions across the world who have already implemented taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Success of the tax has been confirmed in comparable countries like the United Kingdom, where robust evaluations have shown a drop in sugar consumption following the tax.

The AMA’s call for a tax on sugary drinks is part of its new blueprint for a robust, sustainable health system – beyond the pandemic – with high quality, patient-centred care at its heart. The Vision for Australia’s Health, calls for reform around five policy pillars – general practice, public hospitals, private health, equity and innovation.

See the AMA’s report: A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages: Modelled impacts on sugar consumption and government revenue here.

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