Industry rejects latest call for sugar tax

Australian Beverages Council CEO Geoff Parker has rejected calls from the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges (CPMC) for the introduction of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. 

Speaking at the recent National Health Summit on Obesity, CPMC Chair Nicholas Talley outlined the CPMC’s top five recommendations to tackle the crisis in obesity, which included the introduction of a tax on sugar.

“It’s disappointing that the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges has called for a discriminatory tax that evidence clearly shows will not improve public health whatsoever,” Mr Parker said.

The McKinsey Global Institute classifies taxation as one of the least effective obesity interventions, with ‘no direct evidence for change in weight or change in consumption or physical activity levels’.

Mr Parker added that trends in consumption in Australia show that the change a new tax seeks to affect is already happening. Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data indicate a decline in added sugar intake over time, yet obesity rates continue to climb.

“Obesity is a serious and complex public issue with no single cause or quick-fix solution,” Mr Parker said. “A new tax is not the way to make our nation healthier.”

According to new research from the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), the majority of Australians believe a sugar tax would be ineffective in the fight against obesity, with most opposed to such a tax on the basis it would increase cost of living pressure, threaten businesses and jobs, and because there are better ways to tackle obesity.

The survey, involving 4,000 voters aged 18 years plus from around Australia, shows consumers believe the most effective strategy to reduce obesity is to ban advertising of high calorie foods during children’s TV programs, while the least effective strategy would be to impose a sugar tax.

“These results comprehensively demonstrate that Australians don’t believe that introducing a sugar tax will impact consumer behaviour or health outcomes,” AACS CEO Jeff Rogut said. “Most are opposed to a sugar tax because it will pressure their budgets, and threaten jobs and industries.”

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