A campaign urging the government to introduce a tax on soft drinks and limit advertising targeting children has kicked off today.
The Rethink Sugary Drinks campaign hit screens today and includes an Australian version of a US television ad encouraging the public to replace sugary soft drinks with healthier alternatives like water, skim milk and other unsweetened beverages.
Diabetes Australia and the Councer Council are supporting the campaign, with Victoria's Cancer Council offices even displaying a mound of 23 kilos of sugar – the amount consumed by someone who drinks one 600ml bottle of soft drink (each containing 16 teaspoons of sugar) every day for a year.
The ad (below) shows a man sitting at a bar eating packet after packet of sugar while the voice-over says "You'd never eat 16 packs of sugar … Why would you drink 16 packs of sugar?"
Craig Sinclair, chair of the Public Health Committee at Cancer Council said in a statement "Soft drinks seem innocuous and consumed occasionally they're fine, but soft drink companies have made it so they're seen as part of an everyday diet.
"They're often cheaper than bottled water and are advertised relentlessly to teenagers.
"They're being consumed at levels that can lead to serious health issues for the population," he said.
Sugary drinks are widely consumed by Australian adults and children, and according to the Cancer Council, in the 12 months to October 2012, Australians bought 1.28 billion litres of carbonated/still drinks with sugar, with regular cola drinks being the most popular (447 million litres).
The 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey found that almost half (47 percent) of children two to 16 years of age consumed sugar-sweetened beverages (including energy drinks) daily, with 25 percent consuming sugary soft drinks daily.
Kellie-Ann Jolly, acting CEO of the Heart Foundation (Victoria) says governments play an important role in curbing this trend.
"We urge the federal government to implement restrictions to reduce children’s exposure to marketing of sugary drinks, including through schools and sports events," she said.
Jolly also urged restrictions on the sale of such drinks.
"State governments too can help to address the problem by limiting the sale of sugary drinks in all schools and encouraging places frequented by children and young adults such as sporting grounds to reduce the availability of these drinks. We'd also like to see workplaces and healthcare settings getting on board," she said.
The launch of the Rethink Sugary Drinks campaign comes just days after beverage giant Coca-Cola released its latest ad campaign in the US, which also focuses on health.
The campaign includes a two minute television commercial which puts the spotlight on the brand's range of low calorie drinks. It also highlights the brand's efforts to remove its soft drink products from American schools in favour of juices and water, and flags the launch of smaller, portion-controlled sized cans, set to hit US shelves by the end of this year.