Sugar tax benefits those who need it most: low socio-economic and kids

  • Date: 12 October 2017
  • Category: News
Sugary drinks

Recently in major news publication, Geoff Parker, chief executive of the Australian Beverages Council was afforded the opportunity to publicly campaign against a sugar tax in a long opinion piece. Unfortunately the YMCA was not given the opportunity to respond in the same forum. Below is a statement from Ari Kurzeme, YMCA Victoria Advocacy manager regarding the benefits of introducing a sugar tax for kids from low-socio economic communities

Sugar tax benefits those who need it most: low socio-economic and kids

Thousands of kids go through YMCA aquatic and recreation centres each week to get healthier and more active, yet almost half these children are having a sugary drink every day. 

As evidence around the detrimental effects of sugar continues to mount, our organisation felt such a strong responsibility to help improve the health of these kids that as of last month we have successfully removed soft drinks and sport drinks from 38 YMCA-managed centres. In doing so we have stopped putting 28 tonnes of sugar into the community each year, which we believe can go some way in helping lower worrying rates of obesity. But removing sugary drinks is just one element, we’re fighting a losing battle if we don’t consider other interventions, which is why we have joined more than 30 health and community organisations to advocate for a sugar tax.

Geoff Parker’s opinion piece "Let's leave the poor along, and keep government out of the pantry" [11/10, The Australian] says sugar taxes “are regressive and hit the poorest the hardest with studies showing them left with less to spend on healthier food,” yet research shows that it is our vulnerable communities who have the most to gain. Australians in doing it tough are affected by higher rates of obesity and diet-related illnesses such as heart disease and their children are some of the highest consumers of unhealthy products.

The tax on sugary drinks in Mexico confirms that reductions in consumption were highest in those from low socioeconomic families.  Purchases of taxed beverages in Mexico reduced 7.6% over two years. There is strong evidence that increasing the price of unhealthy foods and drinks decreases their consumption and little significant evidence that this substituted with other unhealthy foods and drinks. A recent Australian study showed that a tax of 20% on SSB could result in a 12.6% decline in sugary drinks drunk and a decline in obesity of 2.7% in men and 1.2% of women, plus 1,606 more Australians would be alive in 25 years.

For the YMCA, to create healthier and happier communities, we knew it was time to stop selling sugary drinks. The evidence shows that the next positive step is a sugar tax. It’s time to stop ignoring the facts and start getting serious about tackling obesity.


YMCA Victoria has joined a coalition more than 30 leading medical, public health and community organisations calling on the federal government to take action to address Australia’s serious obesity problem. The 8-point ‘Tipping the Scales’ plan includes a range of measures to reduce the enormous strain excess weight and poor diets are having on the nation’s physical and economic health.  This includes introducing a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks, a ban on unhealthy food advertising between 5.30pm and 9.30pm, when kids are most tuned in, a national ‘active’ transport strategy and making the Health Star Rating mandatory on all products off our supermarket shelves by July 2019.