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Petitioning Minster for Health Minister Sussan Ley

Implement a soft drink tax in Australia

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Petition

This petition is calling on the Australian Government to introduce a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Australia, to tackle the problems of tooth decay, obesity and diabetes.

Money raised from this tax should be used to fund health promotion activities and treatment of tooth decay, obesity and diabetes.

 

Background

There is a growing problem with increasing rates of tooth decay, obesity and diabetes in Australia, particularly amongst children.

Sugar-sweetened beverages (such as soft drinks and sports drinks) are extremely high in sugar, and offer little or no nutritional benefit.

Public Health England recently released a report ‘Sugar Reduction: The Evidence for Action’ that detailed the strong evidence base linking sugar consumption to a range of health problems including dental caries, obesity and type II diabetes.[1] The report detailed a range of measures that should be introduced to tackle this problem, including issues related to marketing, advertising and promoting high sugar foods. One of the key recommendations was:

“Introduction of a price increase of a minimum of 10-20% on high sugar products through the use of a tax or levy such as on full sugar soft drinks, based on the emerging evidence of the impact of such measures in other countries.”

Diet related diseases are consuming an increasing proportion of health expenditure in many countries, and Australia is no exception. Dental caries (tooth decay), type II diabetes and obesity rates are increasing, and the burden of disease is creating challenges for public health professionals. There is a growing awareness in the community that more action needs to be taken to tackle these preventable diseases.

Recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 1 in 2 12-year-old children has tooth decay in their permanent (adult) teeth, and more than half of 6-year-old children have tooth decay in their deciduous (baby) teeth. There has been a 38% increase in tooth decay experience in 12-year-old children from 1996, and a 60% increase for 6-year-old children.  The prevalence of tooth decay shows a strong social gradient, being significantly more concentrated in disadvantaged communities.

Despite a large increase in the oral health workforce over the past 10 years, the dental profession is struggling to manage this growing burden of dental disease.  In 2013-14, there were 63,910 hospitalisations due to dental causes in Australia, second only to urinary tract infections and accounting for 10.6 per cent of all preventable hospitalisations. These hospital admissions for potentially preventable dental conditions place a further significant drain on the public hospital system.

Dental expenditure through the Child Dental Benefits Scheme for tooth extractions has increased from $7.6 million in 2013/14 to $20.5 million in 2014/15, and for restorative services (fillings) the increase has been from $39.1 million to $96.1 million over the same period.

Overweight and obesity are becoming a significant problem in Australia, where they are currently the second highest contributor to the burden of disease. At present, 1 in 4 Australian children, and nearly 2 in 3 adults are obese or overweight (35% overweight, 28% obese). Furthermore, the prevalence of obesity and overweight has been increasing, with 10% more adults overweight or obese in 2012 compared to 1995. Disturbingly, much of this increase has been driven by an increase in obesity from 19% to 28% between 1995 and 2012, with the prevalence of overweight (but not obese) adults remaining relatively static (36% to 38%). The total direct cost for overweight and obesity in 2005 was $12 billion ($6.5 billion for overweight and $14.5 billion for obesity), with indirect costs of $35.6 billion per year.

In 2009, Australia was among the top ten highest consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages globally, and although there are limited recent data quantifying Australian sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, extant data suggests that children are heavy consumers from an early age. Annual sales of soft drinks have increased substantially over the past five decades, with apparent consumption increasing from 45 litres per capita in 1969 to 120 litres per capita in 1999. The 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey found that 47% of children aged 2-16 years consumed SSB's daily. In the past decade it appears that consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks has decreased, to around 89 litres per capita in 2014. Although there has been a decline in consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks, and the sale of other sugar-sweetened beverages has increased.

 

There is good evidence in Australia that increasing tobacco excise has had a dramatic effect in reducing smoking rates, and emerging international evidence suggests a similar effect with a soft drink tax.



[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sugar-reduction-from-evidence-into-action

This petition was delivered to:
  • Minster for Health
    Minister Sussan Ley


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