Australian’s Lead the Way for Soda Tax

For years, critics of the soda tax have complained about the ways in which the Soda tax might disenfranchise our underserved communities. Scholars cry that convenience stores will lose sales drastically; jobs will be cut. But Anita Lal, a research fellow and Ph.D. candidate at Deakin Health Economics and the Global Obesity Centre, Deakin University, disagrees. Lal writes for ” lower socioeconomic groups would, in fact, receive the biggest health benefits from a tax on sugary drinks, and would spend only a fraction more on these drinks per year than other groups under this system.” This is based on a two-pronged argument: health and money.


Firstly: underserved communities would receive immense health benefits as a product of removal of soda from their diets. Soda consists of as many as 780 calories in extreme cases (Xtreme Big Gulp – 7Eleven). These calories are entirely empty calories, which leave you hungry and make your energy crash. Individuals wanting to make up for their energy loss should consume their regular calorie allotment (2,000 for the average person) in addition to a number of calories they drink in Soda. If consumers ingest 780 cals in soda and then consume 2,000 in food, they are in a 780 caloric surplus each day. Weekly that’s 5,460 calories of surplus … says “One pound of body weight is equal to 3,500 calories, so eating an extra 500 calories per day will cause you to gain one pound per week.” At this rate, consumers are gaining over a pound of fat each week. Lal reports “our research looked at predicted changes in consumption levels due to a change in price, then converted that to a change in the population body mass index (BMI).” As BMI went down, Lal and colleagues found a reduction in instances of diabetes, ischemic heart disease, stroke, hypertensive heart disease, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, kidney cancer, and osteoarthritis of the knee and hip. Additionally, Lal reports that “lower out-of-pocket health care expenses on items like pharmaceuticals, general practitioner visits, and hospital visits that are not covered by the government.” Not having to address the aforementioned obesity-related diseases would save lower-class citizens precious dollars in medical bills.


Next, Lal explains that the price of soda won’t be nearly as costly for those closer to the poverty line. She explains that there will be a 20 cent tax, nearly 60 cents per week for most Australians. Lal says ” those in disadvantaged areas will be paying slightly more, the difference is very small, only about $5 per year or 10c per week.” but is sure to explain how these taxes will repay themselves dividends in our healthcare. Lal says that “For each dollar invested, the reduction in health care costs would be $17.”


For a long time, Australians were ahead of Americans in their obesity epidemic, but with the rise of sugary drinks in our underprivileged communities, obesity is skyrocketing in Aus. and elsewhere. Lal reports “almost two in three adults and a quarter of all children are overweight or obese. In addition, the lowest socioeconomic group experiences rates of overweight and obesity disease burden that are 2.3 times those of the highest socioeconomic group.” This is not at all far off from that of the United States; in fact, we still exceed them. reports “Children living below the federal household poverty level have an obesity rate 2.7 times higher (27.4 percent) than children living in households exceeding 400 percent of the federal poverty level.”

Researchers like Lal are leading the charge on much-needed health change in the world. The Soda tax is just one, but a very important, solution to ending the obesity epidemic. Americans can learn much from the change Lal and her colleagues are proposing.

Lal,  Anita (2017),  A Sugar Tax Will Benefit Our Most Disadvantaged Groups,  Austaxpolicy: Tax and Transfer Policy Blog,  9 October 2017, Available from:

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