‘Rethink Sugary Drinks’ campaign launched with call for new tax

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 17th January 2013

Three of Australia’s  foremost health organisations have combined forces to target consumers against sugar-sweetened beverages. The ‘Rethink Sugary Drinks’ TV campaign launched yesterday by the Cancer Council, Diabetes Australia and the National Heart Foundation of Australia demands immediate action by governments, schools and non-government organisations to combat sugary drinks, which they say is a major contributor to obesity in Australia.  

CEO of Diabetes Australia, Greg Johnson said a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, as part of a comprehensive group of interventions, could be an effective tool for encouraging consumers to reduce their intake.

Sugar sweetened beverages are described in the campaign to include all water based beverages with added sugar such as soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks and sports drinks. According to the three health organisations, these beverages are associated with an array of serious health problems including obesity, which is in turn a risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The health organisations say a 600ml sugar-sweetened soft drink contains about 16 packs of sugar and consuming one can of soft drink per day could lead to a 6.75kg weight gain in one year, based on similar US estimates.

Chair of the Public Health Committee at Cancer Council Australia, Craig Sinclair, said it is time for Australians to rethink sugary drinks and switch to water or low-fat milk.

“Sugary drinks shouldn’t be part of a daily diet — many people would be surprised to know that a regular 600ml soft drink contains about 16 packs of sugar and that’s a lot of empty kilojoules. Yet they’re being consumed at levels that can lead to serious health issues for the population – it’s time to stop sugar-coating the facts,” said Mr Sinclair.

Australian consumption of sugary drinks is very high in both adults and children. The 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey found that almost half (47%) of children (2 to 16 years of age) consumed sugar-sweetened beverages (including energy drinks) daily, with a quarter (25%) consuming sugary soft drinks daily.

Acting CEO of the Heart Foundation (Victoria), Kellie-Ann Jolly, said governments have a vital role in reducing public consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and raising awareness of the associated health impacts, especially for children.  A recent survey by the Cancer Council and Heart Foundation found that one in five secondary schools in Australia had vending machines – 49% of which contained sports drinks, and 38% soft drinks.

“State governments too can help to address the problem by limiting the sale of sugary drinks in all schools and encouraging places frequented by children and young adults such as sporting grounds to reduce the availability of these drinks.  We’d also like to see workplaces and healthcare settings getting on board,” Ms Jolly said.

The ‘Rethink Sugary Drinks’ TV campaign, designed from an American TV advertisement, highlights the quantity of sugar in certain beverages and urges Australians to switch to water or reduced-fat milk.  The ad says, ”You’d never eat 16 packs of sugar. Why would you drink 16 packs of sugar?”

'Rethink Sugary Drinks' TV campaign