Research shows benefits of sugary drinks tax for low income Australians

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New research from Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre shows that a 20% tax on sugary drinks would benefit low income Australians.

One of the strongest objections around the world to a sugar tax has been that it would disadvantage the poor, because they are more likely to purchase sugary products and because they spend a higher proportion of their income on food.

The new study, published in PLOS Medicine, found that a tax on sugar sweetened beverages such as soft drinks could save $1.73 billion in healthcare costs over the lifetime of the population.

"In Australia right now almost two in three adults are overweight or obese, and a quarter of all children," said researcher Professor Anna Peeters.

"We know that sugar sweetened beverages are playing a big role in that, and something has to be done.”

Anita Lal, a PhD candidate at the School of Health and Social Development and the report’s lead author, explains: "We estimated the increase in annual spending on sugar sweetened beverages would be an average of $30 per person, or just 60 cents per week, a reasonable cost when the health benefits are taken into account."

"While those in disadvantaged areas will be paying slightly more tax, the difference is very small, only about $5 per year."

Because lower socioeconomic groups are more price sensitive, they are more likely to stop buying soft drinks when prices increase. They also tend to consume more of these drinks in the first place, with the associated health issues. This means that they would be more likely to feel the health benefits than wealthier groups. 

They would also save the most in out of pocket healthcare costs as a percentage of their household expenditure.

"Of course this tax isn’t going to solve obesity on its own, but it can be an important part of the solution.” explains Anita Lal. "It's about making the healthy choice, the easier and more affordable choice."

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