Ballarat's young people will approve sugar tax – on one condition

Young people have a thirst for introducing a tax on sugary drinks if money raised is used on health promotion
Young people have a thirst for introducing a tax on sugary drinks if money raised is used on health promotion

YOUNG people have a thirst for introducing a tax on sugary drinks if money raised is used on health promotion, a new study has found.

This research comes as YMCA Ballarat continues working towards water only in canteens at its pools in the region this summer. 

Pools will again promote water as drink of choice and at eye level in fridges. Limited “amber” or sometimes drinks, like fruit juice and vitamin waters, will be available but out of sight to children. There will be no “red drinks”, those with high sugar content, for sale.

This is the third season YMCA pools has taken a low sugar approach in Avoca, Beaufort and Landsborough. In the first summer alone, pool-goers consumed 40 kilograms less of sugar by opting for water instead.

YMCA Ballarat chief executive officer Brooke LeSueur said the policy had been well accepted by most pool-goers from the outset. 

“Once again this is mostly about education but most people get an idea for doing it,” Ms LeSeur said. “We still get a few grumbles for people who want a Coke but most people are pretty good.”

Under the moves to become sugar free, YMCA pools also adopt healthy guidelines on snacks. Pools will still stock red level food, like chips, out of sight. Pools are also trialling new sugar-free ice blocks.

The move among Pyrenees-based pools drew praise from Cancer Council Victoria chief Todd Harper earlier this year, who said empowering people to make healthier choices was important in changing behaviour.

A sugar tax was another tool and one the Cancer Council supports.

Almost 50 per cent of young Geelong residents, aged 18 to 30, say they support a sugar tax on drinks, according to a Deakin University study.

Support increased to 74 per cent if tax revenue was used to subsidise fruit and vegetables and 72 per cent approved the tax if revenue funded community exercise facilities.

Lead researchers Tom Richardson and Brendan Yanada, trainee doctors at Deakin’s School of Medicine, were compelled to undertake the study because they felt Australia’s biggest consumers of sugary drinks – young people – had been left out of sugar tax debate.

“This study is an important step in showing government and policy makers that there is strong public support for a tax on sugary drinks, particularly by young Australians who would be impacted the most,” Mr Richardson said.

The study found opinions in those surveyed were consistent across gender, weight and socioeconomic status but those who consumed more sugary drinks were less likely to support a tax. Researchers said this suggested multiple solutions were needed to tackle the problem.

One in seven Ballarat adults consume high-sugar beverages daily, a study last year found.