As the obesity epidemic continues to sweep across the globe, Britain has taken a very decisive move in the right direction and introduced a sugar tax on overly sweetened soft drinks.
Following in the footsteps of other countries such as Mexico, Belgium, Hungary and France, soft drinks containing more than 5 grams of sugar per 100mL will be hit with the special tax, making them somewhat less affordable than other, healthier drinks.
The consumption of large amounts of sugar has been linked, time and time again in scientific studies, to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other crippling health issues. The aim of the new tax is to therefore deter people, both young and old, from reaching for sugary liquids to quench their thirst.
Amongst those celebrating the recent decision were government officials, professors, dietitians, parents, and UK celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
Well-known for his efforts in introducing nutritional reform in British school lunchrooms, Jamie Oliver took the opportunity to drive home the message for other countries, including Australia, encouraging them to follow suit.
While Australian officials are yet to make any concrete decisions, professor Anna Peeter from Deakin University stated that,
"The public health consensus is that introducing a sugary drinks tax in Australia is an important piece of a comprehensive obesity prevention approach."
In addition, said Peeter, a tax such as this could revolutionise Australia's soft drink industry, as manufacturers will then scramble to reformulate their products in order to avoid the tax and keep their sales coming in.
Speaking from Curtin University's school of public health in Western Australia, Dr. Christina Pollard agreed that introducing a similar tax here would be extremely beneficial in helping Australians improve their health, and would further highlight the health issues caused by poor diets.
"We need to make healthy food more affordable than junk food," she said.
But despite the overwhelming number of voices supporting the tax, many still have their doubts. One argument is that it has yet to be proven that a tax on soft drinks reduces obesity rates. The other, is that it infringes on the individual's freedom of choice.
Geoff Parker, CEO of the Australian Beverages Council said, "Soft drinks can absolutely be enjoyed in moderation...Food and beverage consumption is a personal choice, not a revenue raiser."
For now, the jury is still out as to whether such a tax will be introduced on our shores. But if the public continues to speak out in its favour, we might be looking at a soft drink reform sooner than we think.
If you have further questions about the effects of soft drinks on your health, we recommend speaking to a doctor, dietitian or nutritionist.
09 Jan 2017