AMA backs sugar tax proposal to combat obesity & diabetes crisis

By Our Reporter
Representative image // Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has commended a federal parliamentary inquiry into diabetes, which has proposed a sugar tax on all soft drinks as a measure to combat the nation’s rising obesity and diabetes rates.

According to AMA President Professor Steve Robson, the parliamentary inquiry seized the opportunity to recommend a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, highlighting its potential to both prevent obesity and generate essential funds for tackling chronic diseases.

“A sugar tax could significantly impact Australia’s health system, potentially yielding $4 billion in government revenue over four years, which could be reinvested into further preventive health initiatives,” Professor Robson stated.

“We fully support the implementation of a sugar tax on sugar-sweetened beverages because of its potential to reduce the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.”

The AMA had previously advocated for a sugar tax during its appearance at the inquiry in September last year, emphasizing its role in curbing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Research indicates that such a tax could lead to 16,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 4,400 fewer cases of heart disease, and 1,100 fewer cases of stroke over a 25-year period, underscoring its effectiveness in improving public health outcomes.

“Australians consume approximately 2.4 billion liters of sugary drinks annually, with an average 375 ml can containing about 12 teaspoons of sugar,” Professor Robson noted.

“Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute significantly to the obesity crisis and offer minimal nutritional benefits. It is concerning that this level of consumption persists.”

He also welcomed the committee’s endorsement of longer GP appointment times for managing complex diseases like diabetes, highlighting the importance of comprehensive care subsidized by the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).

“The extended appointment times will enable doctors, especially GPs, to provide more effective management of risk factors and ongoing treatment, which is crucial in dealing with the complexities of diabetes,” Professor Robson added.

The AMA supports several recommendations from the inquiry aimed at enhancing the focus on preventing type 2 diabetes, including stricter regulations on the marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods, particularly to children.

“Restricting junk food advertising will encourage healthier eating habits from an early age, setting the stage for lifelong health choices,” Professor Robson emphasised.

The inquiry also echoed the AMA’s call for food labeling reforms, advocating for clearer front-of-pack labels to help consumers identify added sugars.

“Obesity and its associated health issues are a nationwide concern,” Professor Robson concluded. “These recommendations are pivotal steps towards improving health outcomes for all Australians.”

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