About 650,000 Victorians drink sugary drinks daily, put health at risk

About 650,000 Victorians drink sugary drinks daily, put health at risk

Health experts say levy on sugary drinks urgently needed

As many as one in four adults in some parts of regional Victoria drink sugary drinks every day, despite being a contributor to high rates of overweight and obesity.

Around one in nine Victorian adults – the equivalent of about 650,000 people – drink sugary drinks every day, and one in two Victorian adults are overweight or obese, new figures show.

The 13 health and community organisations behind Rethink Sugary Drink say the latest data from the Victorian Population Health Survey highlights the impact regular sugary drink consumption is having on Australia’s weight problem.

“We know that regular sugary drink consumption is a contributor to overweight and obesity, and this new data is further proof of how sugary drinks are contributing to obesity in local communities, right here in Victoria,” Kidney Health Australia’s CEO, Mikaela Stafrace, said.

“On average, one in nine Victorian adults are drinking sugary drinks every day, but in some regional areas it’s as many as one in four adults, and for young people this figure is even higher. Rates of overweight and obesity are also worryingly high with around one in two Victorian adults being overweight or obese.”

Regular consumption of sugary drinks, such as soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and iced teas, can lead to serious health problems in the short and long term.

“Sugary drinks are extremely high in sugar – a 600mL bottle of soft drink contains around 16 teaspoons of sugar, while a large 500mL can of energy drink has as many as 21 teaspoons. Downing sugary drinks on a regular basis can lead to weight gain and obesity, which put you at greater risk of kidney and heart disease, cancer – including kidney cancer, type 2 diabetes and stroke. In the shorter term it can also lead to tooth decay,” Kidney Health Australia’s CEO, Mikaela Stafrace, said.

Rethink Sugary Drink is calling for a health levy on sugary drinks, among other strategies, to tackle Australia’s love affair with sugary drinks and raise money to fund vital obesity prevention initiatives. “We must take swift action to address the growing burden that overweight and obesity are having on our society, and a levy on sugary drinks is a vital step in this process,” Craig Sinclair, Head of Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria, a Rethink Sugary Drink partner, said.

“A 20 per cent sugary drinks levy can reduce consumption, slow obesity rates and ultimately save lives, while raising up to $400m a year for initiatives to reduce obesity, particularly in children .

“The World Health Organization is urging governments around the world to levy sugary drinks. Mexico, the UK, Hungary, France and Norway are among countries that have already committed to a sugary drinks levy. Given the size of the obesity problem here in Australia, we really need to get on board as well. The Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of GPs, the Grattan Institute are among many agencies also advocating for such a policy – now we need the Federal Government to show its support and make it happen. Our nation’s weight problem won’t fix itself.”

In addition to a sugary drinks levy, the Rethink Sugary Drink alliance recommends the following actions to tackle sugary drink consumption:

• A public education campaign supported by Australian governments to highlight the health impacts of regular sugary drink consumption

• Restrictions by Australian governments to reduce children’s exposure to marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages, including through schools and children’s sports, events and activities

• Comprehensive mandatory restrictions by state governments on the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages (and increased availability of free water) in schools, government institutions, children’s sports and places frequented by children

• Development of policies by state and local governments to reduce the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in workplaces, government institutions, health care settings, sport and recreation facilities and other public places.