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.Associate Professor Gary Sacks
“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.
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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,” she said.
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