Sugar’n’spice and all things tax

Dubbo Photo News - - Contents - Yvette Aubus­son-fo­ley ed­i­tor@dub­boweek­ face­­ender­dubbo Twit­ter @Dub­boweek­ender

IN 2014/15, Aus­tralian con­sumers tipped $3.7 bil­lion dol­lars into Coca-cola Amatil’s bank ac­count by tip­ping soft drink (and other prod­ucts) into them­selves.

The mega ‘soda’ gi­ant’s tax­able in­come was $438 mil­lion and they ul­ti­mately paid $123 mil­lion in tax.

A sugar tax of an ex­tra 20 cents would bring in - across the in­dus­try - around $500 mil­lion but what’s the point?

Obe­sity and Type 2 di­a­betes are the main driv­ers be­hind the health in­dus­try’s call for some­thing to be done about the over con­sump­tion of drinks laden with the fat pro­duc­ing in­gre­di­ent sugar, to ease the long term eco­nomic and so­cial im­pacts of diseases in the mak­ing.

Given the amount of mar­ket­ing a com­pany like Coco-cola Amatil would spend on sex­ing up their brand in op­po­si­tion to a tax im­posed in the non-barn­aby Joyce fu­ture it stands to rea­son they’ll find ways to main­tain that bil­lions-of-dol­lars grip on the bev­er­age mar­ket. Barn­aby does have a point how­ever. Sim­ply don’t give your kids soft drinks. It is that sim­ple. We love to spoil our kids, but sugar makes them fat and sug­ary drinks puts kids’ health in dan­ger and can hardly be called a ‘spe­cial treat’.

“Would you like a glass of teenage obe­sity, Sweet­heart? “Ice with your first heart at­tack?” It all de­pends on how you spin it. Just like the soft drink com­pa­nies do.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a house­hold where Coca-cola was used as a wind­screen bug-off so­lu­tion due to its ex­cel­lent cor­ro­sive qual­i­ties and abil­ity to dis­solve the blood and guts of smacked-on bee­tles and grasshop­pers so it never oc­curred to me to ac­tu­ally seek it out as a drink.

It’s not like the facts aren’t right un­der our noses ei­ther.

Ac­cord­ing to Kid­ney Health Aus­tralia CEO and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Anne Wil­son, any child drink­ing a 600ml bot­tle of soft drink con­sumes 15 tea­spoons of sugar. Over a year, a daily bot­tle costs $900 and equates to 23kg of sugar. That’s 50.7 pounds. “As a reg­u­lar be­hav­iour, this raises ma­jor health con­cerns and ex­po­sures to health prob­lems in­clud­ing high risk fac­tors for chronic kid­ney dis­ease,” she has said.

“That Sugar Movie” does a great job of spell­ing out just how poi­sonous the ef­fects of sugar are on the hu­man body and of course it’s not just sug­ary drinks that are the cul­prit but many foods which use sugar to re­place fats re­moved so they can be mar­keted as low fat.

In the short term, ex­ces­sive sugar con­sump­tion can cause headaches, chronic tired­ness, brain fog, ir­ri­tabil­ity, bloat­ing and weight gain and in the long term type 2 di­a­betes, high blood pres­sure and heart dis­ease.

It also ru­ins our abil­ity to know when we’re full.

While the onus is on par­ents and car­ers to not give these bev­er­ages to chil­dren, keep­ing it out of easy reach in schools for ex­am­ple, is an­other way of com­bat­ting obe­sity and Type 2 di­a­betes far more than an­other tax would.

Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Health Tracker re­leased ear­lier this year by the Aus­tralian Health Pol­icy Col­lab­o­ra­tion (AHPC) al­most 30 per cent of young Aus­tralians are over­weight or obese mak­ing us one of the fat­test na­tions on the planet and we hear this mes­sage over and over but the best we can do is keep talk­ing about it.

Surely any gov­ern­ment’s go­ing to drag the chain on ac­tion sit­ting on a steady in­come of hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in tax al­ready.

It’s not enough to say ‘please tell them to stop mar­ket­ing and sell­ing their death in a can drinks or mak­ing us pay more for them’. You have to go cold turkey. Or if you’re a young par­ent now, just sim­ply don’t deal sug­ary drinks to your kids ever so they don’t de­velop the habit. Save them. We ham­mer our kids to just say no to drugs be­cause they’re cat­a­stroph­i­cally bad for your brain, body, san­ity and life. Why not sug­ary drinks? Tax­ing sug­ary drinks to at­tempt to im­pact ris­ing rates of obe­sity and Type 2 di­a­betes has been tri­alled France, Mex­ico, Bri­tain and Cal­i­for­nia since 2012. It’s a World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion ap­proved move in line with tax­ing smok­ing (Pigo­vian tax­a­tion).

But again in 2014/15 Bri­tish Amer­i­can To­bacco made $4.6 bil­lion dol­lars from Aus­tralian ci­garette sales and paid $307 mil­lion in tax.

Phillip Mor­ris made $3.2 bil­lion gross, had a tax­able in­come of $746 mil­lion and paid $223 mil­lion in tax.

Not sure to­bacco tax is work­ing to pre­vent can­cer quite the way it in­tended be­cause clearly some­one’s still chug­ging on those smokes in a very lu­cra­tive way for BAT and Phillip Mor­ris and the gov­ern­ment.

Imag­ine a fu­ture where kids don’t con­sume 154 litres a year of soft drinks, as they do in the USA on av­er­age.

One up­side is they’re not pay­ing per litre the equiv­a­lent in petrol prices for soft drinks. See John Ryan’s com­ments in the fuel pric­ing chasm be­tween Welling­ton and Dubbo in­side.

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