By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier
The idea of imposing a sugar tax on soft drinks in Australia is being floated by different interest groups, after a similar law was enacted in the UK.
One month ago the UK government announced plans to impose a sugar levy on soft drinks from April 2018. Drinks with more than five grams of sugar per 100 millilitres will have a levy of 34 cents per litre enforced, while those with more than eight grams per 100 millilitres will have 45 cents per litre tacked on.
When the measures were announced, chef Jamie Oliver posted a video on Facebook urging Australia to follow suit and introduce a sugar tax. By the same ratios, many soft drinks, iced teas and vitamin waters would have the sugar tax imposed on them.
Greens party leader, Richard Di Natale, has labelled the levy “a really interesting proposal”.
A study released by the Obesity Policy Coalition, in conjunction with the University of Queensland’s School of Public Health, suggested that a 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could save more than 1600 lives and raise $400 million per year.
Jane Martin, co-author of the study, suggested that the revenue raised could be put towards national healthcare services.
"This revenue could be used for programs to reduce childhood obesity, subsidise the cost of healthy food for low-income families and fund health promotion activities to improve diets."
Coca-Cola Amatil, with its large and high-selling portfolio of soft drinks, iced teas and vitamin waters, would be one of the largest companies to have their products levied by a sugar tax in Australia.
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola Amatil told TheShout that a sugar tax may only hurt the beverage industry, without actually reducing obesity.
“We recognise obesity is a very real issue in Australia. As a leader within the beverages industry, we take our responsibility to play our part in helping to address this challenge very seriously.
“A sugar tax is not the solution to this complex problem. We know that there has been a 26 per cent decline in per capita sugar contribution, from carbonated soft drinks, from 1997 to 2011. Yet, over the same time obesity rates have increased.
“A tax on a select group of beverages, like the sugar levy announced in the UK, will be ineffective in combating obesity and will negatively impact the local beverage manufacturing sector and increase prices for consumers.
“Soft drinks are often front and centre of the conversation around obesity, but just 1.9 per cent of the average daily kilojoule intake, for all Australians, comes from soft drinks and flavoured mineral waters.”
The spokesperson also suggested that Coca-Cola Amatil offers a variety of different beverage options to give consumers a variety of options to suit their lifestyle.
“We believe our industry has a role to play in ensuring consumers make the right choices for them and their families. This is why we are constantly challenging ourselves to offer choice when it comes to the range of portion sizes and kilojoule options that are available. We also know people need clear nutritional information and we are committed to ensuring this is available wherever our products are sold.”
 Levy G.S., Shrapnel W.S. (2014) Quenching Australia’s thirst: a trend analysis of water-based beverage sales from 1997 to 2011. Nutrition & Dietetics. doi: 10.1111/1747-0080.12108