Sarah Wilson and the I Quit Sugar team launched our petition for an Australian sugar tax back in April. And boy, has it sparked some seriously sweet conversations about sugar consumption in this country!
Now the conversation is turning to action. Last month the Australian Greens signed our petition and called for a tax on sugary beverages. They became the first political party in Australia to throw their weight behind the cause.
We’re excited to see where the conversation heads next (hello, parliament!). But if you’re still unsure where you stand, here are a few pointers on why – and perhaps more importantly how – we think a sugar tax would work Australia.
Why we’re going after soft drink.
In an ideal world, we would be taxing all sugary foods. Because it’s not the copious amounts of sugar in soft drink that’s causing a problem, it’s also the sugar in flavoured yoghurts, snack bars and breakfast cereals.
“But soft drink is a low hanging fruit – few dispute that they are crappy contributions to life,” says Sarah. “Plus, liquid sugar is the most dangerous – it’s a large and fast dumping to the liver, which is what causes the health issues as the liver struggles to deal with such a large and fast injection.”
Plus, when you think about the fact that almost 30 per cent of daily sugar intake in Aussie kids aged 2–16 years is coming from soft drinks, it seems to us a perfect place to begin. (And probably the reason the Cancer Council Australia, Diabetes Australia and the National Heart Foundation of Australia have supported a tax like this since 2013.)
Why conversation is so important.
The public have raised concerns on social media about the effort and the funds that go into setting up a sugar tax, suggesting that they would be better directed towards education on nutrition.
But the very fact that the sugar tax debate has got the whole nation talking is exactly the point! By raising concern and sparking conversation, we all become more aware and more educated. “It’s a double boon,” says Sarah.
And with the UK Government already pledging to put their sugar tax revenue back into schools, we would suggest our revenue was used in the same way – to educate children about nutrition. (This is what the Australian Greens have called for, too.)
Why we should aim to make healthy food cheaper, too.
We would also suggest we use the tax revenue to subsidise fresh fruit and veg, making it cheaper and more accessible.
“Indeed,” says Sarah, “85 per cent of Australians support the idea of a soft drink tax if the revenue was used for programs to reduce childhood obesity and encourage children to play sports.”
Why sin taxes do work.
A lot of people think that ‘sin taxes’ don’t reduce consumption rates. But there’s already sufficient evidence that these kinds of taxes have a huge impact on consumption, while also making people think about the decisions they’re making for themselves and their families.
“Various studies show a 20 per cent hike in soft drink prices could slash consumption by up to 24 per cent,” says Sarah. “Which will make the soda companies consider the amount of sugar they put in.”
Why this is not just another tax on the poor.
Sadly, the stats show there is higher soft drink consumption in more socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. Which may be why sugar advertising is so much more rampant in poorer demographics.
“It’s not surprising then that 15 per cent more Australians living in outer regional and remote areas are overweight, compared to city-dwellers,” says Sarah. “That’s why I’m asking for support to get Australia tackling this urgent obesity crisis. And I will be campaigning for the revenue to go towards assisting families in accessing fresh, healthy food.”
Sign Sarah and the team’s petition here! #foodrevolution