Ballarat university students will now be less tempted to consume unhealthy drinks.
Australian Catholic University has become the first Australian university to remove sugary drinks from its vending machines.
The decision comes after a long push by health campaigners for a sugar tax and moves at nearby pools and hospitals to ban soft drinks.
ACU deputy vice chancellor professor Anne Cummins said the university had a duty to ensure its students and staff had a healthy environment to study and work.
“We wanted to change the perception of what products are automatically expected to be sold in vending machines,” she said.
“This is part of the university's commitment to a sustainable and healthy environment in which to study and work.”
Any drinks with added sugar have been removed from the vending machines, including soft drinks, some flavoured waters, fruit drinks, cordials, iced teas, energy drinks and sports drinks.
We know when people are presented with healthier choices they choose them.Dr Jason Wu, The George Institute for Global Health
An internal ACU analysis that triggered the move found sugary drinks made up around 55 per cent of all beverages available at campus vending machines.
The machines now have to follow guidelines that 75 per cent of products are ‘everyday’ healthy food and drinks and 25 per cent are ‘occasional’ less healthy food and drinks like some fruit juices and flavoured milks.
Dr Jason Wu from The George Institute for Global Health managed the analysis with ACU.
He said the removal of sugary drinks was a first step, but more change was needed to encourage healthier choices.
“We know when people are presented with healthier choices they choose them,” he said.
“When drinks such as these have been removed from sale in universities overseas, people have not complained or demanded their reinstatement. They simply swap for a drink not loaded with sugar.
“We would also like to see universities, public places and schools ensure that all of their food and drinks meet healthy food guidelines. With 60 per cent of Australians overweight or obese we need action right now.”
Ballarat’s thirst for sugary drinks is well-documented with almost one in seven consuming high-sugar beverages daily, according to a study last year.
It is estimated one can of regular soft drink a day could lead to a 6.75kg weight gain in one year.