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Renewed calls for a soft drinks tax have drawn criticism from
the Australian Beverages Council, but in Singapore authorities and
economists are taking a more rational approach to the reality of
increasing rates of obesity and diabetes.
According to our Beverages Council, the idea of taxing soft
drinks has a 'fatal flaw'.
Writing in 'The Australian' newspaper, Chief Executive Geoff
Parker says dietary behaviour cannot be predicted or controlled by
a 'blunt economic instrument like a tax' and where implemented,
these taxes have been unsuccessful.
According to Mr Parker, health advocates are spending 'millions
of dollars of public funds campaigning for a tax on sugar sweetened
beverages (SSBs). "It is not right that so much money, which may be
better used to treat chronic diseases, is being recklessly spent on
an unpopular, lightweight strategy that has been ruled out by both
major parties," he says.
Diabetes Queensland (a charity whose advocacy efforts are funded
by members and donors) supports the Obesity Policy Coalition, the
health advocacy campaign that has drawn the ire of Mr Parker and
But the proposals of the OPC and Diabetes Queensland do not
begin and end with a soft drinks tax and it is wrong of Mr Parker
to say so.
The problems caused by obesity and the consequences for
Australian health care and the tax system that funds it are
increasing at a rapid rate.
Just this week, an international report forecast the cost of
caring for obesity-related health conditions in Australia will
increase from $12 billion in 2014 to $21 billion by 2025.
That is why we call on our Governments to greatly increase their
efforts and to confront the problem using an eight-point action
plan, of which the soft drinks tax is just one integral part.
Meanwhile, the president of the Economic Society of Singapore,
Professor Euston Quah - writing in The Straits Times - has offered a well-considered view, examining the
benefits and the hidden hurdles of a soft drinks tax and how it
might apply in his country.
"In the fight against diabetes, Singapore can consider a tax on
sugar. But it has to be well thought through first to avoid
over-burdening low-income households," says Prof. Quah, also the
head of economics at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
"Some people might say that when it comes to food choices, they
should have complete freedom in making those choices as they are
solely responsible for the health cost that they would incur."
"However, the cost goes beyond personal choices." Read excerpts from the opinion piece
In Australia, those of us proposing comprehensive co-ordinated
action against obesity don't see taxing soft drinks as a 'soft
More studies have been published about the impact of
sugar-sweetened beverages on our health than we care to list
A great body of research commends our advocacy for a soft drinks
tax as part of an effective suite of measures to change the
behaviour of both consumers and manufacturers and to help our
country break free of a mindset that has beleaguered Australians