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Drink tax to fight obesity
Ballarat Courier, Ballarat  by Michelle Smith
13 Dec 2018
General News - Page 6 - 421 words - ID 1050521767 - Photo: Yes - Type: News Item - Size: 284.00cm2

AN ALCOHOL tax is the most cost-effective way to fight obesity, according to a new study.

With increased pressure for the introduction of a sugar tax on soft drinks to help control ballooning waistlines across the country, Deakin University health economists have assessed a range of health policies and found a volumetric tax on alcohol - where all alcohol would be taxed at 84c per standard drink - to make the most difference per dollar spent.

A tax on sugary drinks was found to be the second most cost-effective health measure, followed by a ban on junk food advertising to children.

More than 60 per cent of Ballarat residents are classed overweight or obese, and 85 per cent do not get enough exercise.

Report co-author Associate Professor Gary Sacks from Deakin University's Global Obesity Centre, said the tax on alcoholic drinks would help drive down alcohol consumption, produce substantial health gains and healthcare cost-savings.

"Alcohol is high in calories, with a pint of beer almost on par with a chocolate bar, so consumption can have a big impact on daily energy intake," he said.

"Currently different types of alcohol are all taxed differently, but under a uniform volumetric tax all drinks would be taxed based on alcohol content, meaning a significant price increase for some products." Sixteen health interventions, most backed by leading public health lobby groups, were analysed in the report Assessing Cost-Effectiveness of Obesity Prevention Policies in Australia (ACE-Obesity Policy).

Report lead author Jaithri Ananthapavan said all of the interventions assessed offered good value for money and although taxbased policies were cost effective, she recognised they could be unpopular.

Among the other measures considered were introducing supermarket shelf tags on healthier foods, fast food menu kilojoule labelling, school-based interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity, capping the size of sugary beverages and restricting price promotions, financial incentives for weight loss fro private health insurance, and community based interventions.

"Australia's current obesity epidemic has serious negative health and economic consequences. It costs society more than $12 billion each year in medical costs and lost productivity, which will only be addressed through a comprehensive societal response." "If the government wants to make obesity prevention a key health priority, this report provides a great road map towards that goal. These interventions are spread across a range of settings and sectors and include program-based polices as well as regulations, allowing governments to prioritise implementation according to their policy preferences."

Caption Text:
FATTENING: Experts say an alcohol tax could help beat the bulge.

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