Like many other countries, Australia is looking for the best solution to tackle the growing problem of obesity. As many are asking for a tax on certain products, including soft drinks, the Australian Beverages Council shows why a measure of this type will not work.
First of all, recent studies have identified what has been called “Australian Paradox” – the fact that in the last years, while the refined sugar intake has dramatically decreased (26%), as well as the consumption of sweetened beverages, the prevalence of obesity in Australians was multiplied by 3. Moreover, according to a 2012 Australian Health Survey conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), soft drinks represent just 1.7% of the average adult’s daily calorie intake. This figure shows that a tax on soft drinks would not have much effects.
In addition, similar taxes in other countries have failed: the Danish ‘fat tax’ was abolished 18 months after its introduction due to its ineffectiveness and negative impact on the economy. In 2014 also the European Commission conducted a study on the impact of food taxes, concluding that instead of increasing citizens’ health these measures provoked job losses, higher food prices and higher administrative costs.
The introduction of a soft drinks tax in Mexico has raised another fundamental concern: the 63,7% of it is collected from low income families, according to KantarWorldpanel. This illustrates how such taxes are regressive and damage the most the least well-off families.
Two more facts have to be taken into account: consumers are choosing more and more no or low calorie products and, according to a 2014 Australian survey, they strongly believe that education is the most effective way to tackle obesity.
The full statement by the Australian Beverages Council can be found here: ABC White Paper.