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Scepticism of proposed tax

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November 25, 2016

Shepparton paediatrician Dr Peter Eastaugh said it was a simplistic approach to tackle the growing obesity epidemic, and he was sceptical of how successful it could be.

A leading Shepparton medical professional has poured cold water over a proposal to tax sugary drinks to help cut the kilos being gained by people across the nation.

A Grattan Institute report released yesterday recommended a sugar content tax of 40 cents per 100g of sugar on water-based, non-alcoholic sugar-sweetened beverages.

Shepparton paediatrician Dr Peter Eastaugh said it was a simplistic approach to tackle the growing obesity epidemic, and he was sceptical of how successful it could be.

‘‘Is there epidemiological evidence that by increasing the cost of an addictive agent like sugar that you decrease its intake?’’ Dr Eastaugh said.

‘‘I am very sceptical that by taxing one of a multitude of sources of sugar that you will make any difference.’’

He suspected that people would simply get their ‘‘sugar hit’’ from other foods, and there would be no measurable difference to obesity.

Although Dr Eastaugh did not support the proposal, he said obesity was a major public health epidemic, and government action should be taken to improve health.

But instead of a simple tax, he wanted fatty foods to be treated the same way as tobacco — to ban advertising and put health warnings on packaging.

‘‘Of course they should do it, (obesity) is a bigger cause of illness than tobacco,’’ he said.

‘‘Put together with the insidious advertising programs and it’s no wonder why we have an addiction.’’

Currently few politicians are pushing for radical advertising bans on sugary and fat-filled foods, but the sugar tax has gained a supporter — Greens leader Richard di Natale.

The proposed tax would add 40cents per 100g of sugar on water-based, non-alcoholic sugar-sweetened beverages and raise about $520million per year.

Researchers estimate the tax would increase the average cost of a two-litre bottle of soft drink by about 80cents, leading to a 15 per cent reduction in consumption.

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