Silver Chain Group is supporting calls for a tax on sugary drinks as part of a suite of public health policies aimed at helping Australians make healthy choices.

In coinciding with National Diabetes Week, July 11-17, Silver Chain Group CEO Dale Fisher said it was time for Australian authorities to consider a tax on sugary drinks to help save lives and millions of dollars in healthcare costs.

“We’ve long known that sugary drinks such as soft drinks have no nutritional value, we don’t need them in our diet,” Ms Fisher said. Ms Fisher is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health and Prevention Medicine at Monash University.

“Overseas jurisdictions that have introduced a tax on sugary drinks have found that it does result in reduced consumption of drinks.

“The tax also resulted in manufacturers reformulating more of their products so there was a greater choice of reduced-sugar drinks and non-sugar drinks.

“Of course, it would be paramount for a tax on sweetened beverages to be considered as part of a range of strategies and programs that promote healthier food consumption and discourage consumption of unhealthy food options.

“Through Silver Chain’s focus on helping clients with chronic health conditions, including our diabetic educator service, we have found that increasing awareness of healthy drink and food options makes a huge difference to quality of life.”

A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) has been championed by various organisations in Australia including Diabetes Australia and most recently the Australian Medical Association.

In calling for a 20 per cent tax on sugary soft drinks last month, AMA said more than 2.4 million litres of sugar drinks were consumed every year in Australia.

AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid said sugary drinks fuelled diabetes, obesity and poor vascular health. He said the tax proposal was in line with a World Health Organization recommendation and could raise $814 million annually, which in turn could be spent on other preventative measures.

Dr Khorshid also said that Australia “lagged” behind more than 45 jurisdictions across the world which have already implemented taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.

The Australian Parliament Select Committee’s Inquiry into the Obesity Epidemic in Australia in 2018 recommended that the Federal Government should introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).

The committee said the objective of such a tax would be to “reduce consumption, improve public health and accelerate the reformulation of products”.

The Committee referred to an Australian study that showed a 20 per cent sugary-drink tax could result in a 12 per cent decline in consumption of sugary drinks and result, over a 25-year-period, in as many as 16,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes and 4400 few cases of heart disease.

“The benefits of having a tax on sugary drinks are substantial, particularly when you consider that the marketing of these drinks is strongly targeted at children and young people. We need to be able to provide a better environment for people to make better and healthier choices,” Ms Fisher said.