20% sugar-sweetened drinks tax could save 1600 lives while raising $400 million in taxes per year
20% sugar-sweetened drinks tax could save 1600 lives while raising $400 million in taxes per year

Soft drink tax would save 1600 lives, raise $400m a year

HOW much do you love your sugar?

A 20% tax on sugary drinks could save about 1600 lives and raising $400 million a year, according to new research released by the University of Queensland.

It would also cut down the number of Australians diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

Great Britain has introduced such a policy, that will be put in place from 2018.

UQ School of Public Health researcher Dr Lennert Veerman said long term, the impact would be enormous.

"After 25 years, about 1600 fewer deaths would ahve occurred, with heart disease accounting for the largest share of this postponed mortality," he said.

"There would be 4400 fewer people with heart disease at that time and 1100 fewer people living with the consequences of stroke.

"In effect, Australians would enjoy about 170,000 health life years that they would not have otherwise."

It would cost the average household an extra $17 a year, according to a statement from UQ.

The research focused on "sugar-sweetened beverages"  -- non-alcoholic drinks with added sugar, including fizzy soft drink and flavoured mineral waters.

Fruit juices and drinks, along with energy drinks, milk drinks and cordials were not considered.

If introduced, the government would save more money every year as the impact of the tax was felt through the community.

Eventually it would level-out at about $29 million of savings per year.

The Obesity Policy Coalition was involved in the UQ research.

Executive manager and co-author Jane Martin said 65% of adults now supported a tax on soft drink if the funds were used to bring down the cost of healthier foods.

In Australia, the Coalition Government has already ruled out taxing sugary drinks.

Federal Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash said it was not up to the government to tell people what to do.

"I believe it is the role of people to choose what they eat and the role of government to give people access to accurate information to make good choices. People need to take personal responsibility for what they eat," she said in March.

Australia's soft-drink lobbyists Australian Beverages Council described a tax on sugary drinks as "another step in the wrong direction".

Chief executive officer Geoff Parker said what people choose to eat and drink should not be "a revenue raiser".

"This tax is yet another step in the wrong direction to end the global obesity epidemic," he said, referring to the UK's tax on sugary drinks.

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