Introduction and problem
Sugar consumption is a serious problem globally. In our current food environment, it is too easy to eat too much sugar. Major sugar intake causes health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and tooth and gum problems. Obesity, a huge problem in our society, leads to diabetes, heart problems, cancer, and other diseases. In Australia, 29-30% of Australians are obese. 1 in 4 children (25%) are overweight and 2 in 3 adults (63%) are overweight.
Australia has also been rated 21st in the world of being overweight and 3rd out of English-speaking countries. A study in 2011-12 showed that on average, Australian’s were consuming 60 grams of free sugars a day. This is equivalent to 12 teaspoons of white sugar a day. Some people have suggested that introducing a tax on foods high in sugar to address the health problems caused by overconsumption of sugar. I believe that a sugar tax should be introduced in Australia to improve the health of all Australians.
Child obesity is one of the major problems of the 21st century and is steadily increasing and affecting more children. In 2016, it was estimated that 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight globally. The big problem with childhood obesity is that overweight or obese children are more likely to stay obese into adulthood and are more likely to develop diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, at a young age. Obesity and overweight are highly preventable. Prevention should be a high priority, especially for children.
Influences of multinational companies and advertising
Multinational companies use the media to advertise their products. Children in many developed countries have so much access to the media that they are easily targeted. Children under the age of 8 do not understand the persuasive intent of advertising and sometimes can’t recognize the difference between advertising and a TV program.
There are very few effective regulations to protect children from advertising, and existing regulations mostly apply to younger children only, which means that adolescents are vulnerable. Advertisements in the media are designed to engage children emotionally and entertain them. They encourage children to share this experience with friends. Studies have shown that exposure to these ads can increase the consumption of the products.
Advertisements, not just food ones, can have harmful effects on children’s eating habits because they show unrealistic body expectations. This can lead to eating disorders and weight-related behaviors, especially in young girls. Unhealthy weight control behaviors have been found to co-occur with obesity.
How would a sugar tax contribute to improving health in Australia and how would we benefit?
Currently, foods high in sugar, such as some breakfast cereals, often present a cheap and easier option. By placing a tax on sugar, many people would turn to healthier food as an alternative. In 2011-12, obesity was costing Australia $8.6 billion. By taxing foods high in sugar, salt, and fat, about $3.4 billion would be saved in healthcare costs.
The money from the taxes could be used for promoting health and could raise $400 million for health initiatives. A sugar tax alone could result in an additional 1.2 years of healthy life per 100 Australians and could save more than 1600 lives. In the first 25 years, there could be 16000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 4400 fewer cases of heart disease, and over 1000 fewer cases of strokes.