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Dentists back sugary drinks tax

Soft drinks would be more expensive, but our health would improve under this proposal.

  • Health
  • Read Time: 4 mins

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) has welcomed a report from the Grattan Institute calling for a levy on sugary drinks. 

ADA president Dr Scott Davis said the report, Sickly Sweet, reiterated his association’s long-held position.

“Australia must implement a tax on sugary drinks to not only curb the country’s obesity crisis but importantly to slow down the rate of tooth decay,” said Dr Davis, a NSW prosthodontist.  

“As we know from numerous research studies and as made clear by this Grattan report, sugary drink taxes have led to improvements in oral health in several countries around the globe which have already instituted a levy on sugary drinks.”  

The ADA has been calling on the Australian Government for many years to introduce a levy on sugary drinks that would then provide funding for targeted oral health programs. 

Dr Davis said the nation’s oral health has been declining. 

The ADA’s Adult Oral Health Tracker demonstrates that almost one-third of Australian adults have tooth decay, with an almost 7% increase between 2004-06 and 2017-18. 

The number of Australian children captured in data for potentially preventable hospitalisations due to dental disease has also continued to rise.  

Dr Davis said this is a problem that was directly addressed by the introduction of a levy in the United Kingdom, which led to a 12% reduction in hospital admissions for removal of decayed teeth in children. 

“As long as our government drags its feet, Australia will remain behind the 100 plus countries around the world which have taken the step to combat sugar consumption via sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Dr Davis. 

The Grattan Insitute report notes that popular soft drinks contain as much as 10 teaspoons of sugar in just one 375ml can. 

“That’s almost the entire maximum recommended daily intake of sugar for an adult,” the report said. 

As well as the UK, taxes on sugary drinks have been introduced in France, Portugal, and Mexico. 

The Grattan Insitute recommended that Australia introduce a tiered tax that targets the drinks that have the most sugar, with a top rate of 60c per litre, and no tax on low-sugar drinks. 

The report said, “Grattan Institute modelling shows that our proposed tax would reduce consumption of the drinks with the most sugar by about 275 million litres a year, or the volume of 110 Olympic swimming pools. 

“The average Australian would drink nearly three quarters of a kilogram less sugar each year. 

“The tax is all about health, not revenue, but it would still give the federal government an extra half a billion dollars in the first year.” 

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