Last month, the government released the 2013 State of Public Health report, and since then all eyes have been on Tasmania – now one of the country’s most overweight and unhealthy states. As a result, health experts are discussing the possibility of introducing a so-called sugar tax in Australia's "Treasure Island”.
According to the 2013 State of Public Health, Tasmania now has the second highest number of deaths from heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and lung cancer, with only the Northern Territory scoring higher on the list.
Even more worrying is the growing trend of child obesity. “Perhaps the most concerning and dangerous statistic in this report is the sharp increase in obesity and overweight in Tasmanian children aged five to 17 years, which has risen from 18.6 per cent in 2007-08 to 28.8 per cent in 2011-12,” said the report’s author, Director of Public Health and Chief Health Officer Dr Roscoe Taylor.
With increased numbers of chronic health problems, we’re seeing an increased cost of health care, which is expected to spike with the advance of diabetes and heart disease in Tasmania and other Australian states. If this trend is left continue, these (often) preventable health issues could place a significant burden on Australian society.
According to Dr Taylor, the key to turning this unhealthy trend around lies in prevention.
“Given the poor evidence for sustained weight loss once obesity is established, prevention of overweight in children has to be a major priority for preventive action before they go on to face a shortened lifetime complicated by health risks,” he said.
And one of the key steps to preventing childhood obesity, Dr Taylor suggests, is a tax on unhealthy food – in particular, sugar.
“I would be very pleased to see a sugar tax,” he said. “When it comes to childhood obesity, I think parents should be strongly advised to make milk and water the daily drink of choice for their child and leave soft drinks purely for birthdays."
Over recent years, there has been much debate about introducing a sugar tax in Australia and many other countries, and experts believe it is only a matter of time before it becomes a reality.