Tipping the scales against sugary drinks: Survey shows support for obesity prevention initiatives

Queenslanders want a health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages, with over half of the participants from a new survey in favour of the policy intervention.

Results from Cancer Council Queensland and Heart Foundation’s Everyday Health Survey released today on World Obesity Day canvassed community views on sugar-sweetened beverages to identify consumer habits, determine understanding of the health impacts and assess support for proposed regulations.

The online survey found that 63 per cent of respondents are in favour of a 20 per cent health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said there was a clear link between the overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and rates of overweight and obesity, and the survey had provided valuable insights into community support for proposed regulations.

“We know that sugar-sweetened beverages have little or no nutritional value and may lead to weight gain, which can increase the risk of a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease and some cancers,” Ms McMillan said.

“Reducing the risk of obesity requires an integrated approach across different sectors, including improving the availability and access to nutritious food and reducing exposure to marketing of less healthy food options.

“A health levy of 20 per cent on the cost of sugary drinks can help deter people from these cheap and very unhealthy drinks and help recover some of the significant costs associated with obesity and the increasing burden this puts on our public health care system.

“Revenue raised by such a levy could be used to subsidise healthy foods (favoured by 62 per cent of respondents) or support school nutrition programs (favoured by 14 per cent of respondents).

“Our Everyday Health Survey showed strong support from our community on these strategies, and more.”

Heart Foundation Queensland CEO Stephen Vines said the survey confirmed Queenslanders are concerned about the impact sugar-sweetened beverages are having on their health.

“With 98 per cent of respondents saying they are actively trying to reduce their sugar consumption we really need to do all we can to support them,” said Mr Vines.

“Just one can of soft drink is nine teaspoons of sugar and can undo the benefits of an otherwise healthy diet.”

“Being overweight or obese greatly increases your risk of heart disease and we want to work with community and government to find ways to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.”

While the survey found that 76 per cent of respondents had consumed a sugar-sweetened beverage in the three months prior, 85 per cent of respondents knew that it is very likely that consuming too much sugar increases the risk of overweight and obesity.

“Queenslanders are more aware than ever before of the link between overconsumption of sugar and obesity – and this World Obesity Day we are encouraging workplaces, schools, non-government organisations and all levels of government to focus on making change and moving away from sugar-sweetened beverages,” Ms McMillan said.

“Alarmingly, about 2.3 million Queensland adults are overweight or obese* – this is major public health issue we must address.”

Ms McMillan applauded the Queensland Government for already acting on reducing the impact of sugary drinks through restricting their presence in public hospitals and health care facilities, and for taking the lead on developing guidelines to phase out advertising of junk food targeting to children near schools, sport and recreation centres, as well as public transport hubs.

“We look forward to the Queensland Government progressing these initiatives to continue improving diets and halting our increasing obesity rates.”

Cancer Council Queensland and Heart Foundation’s Everyday Health Survey Sugar-sweetened beverages was conducted in July 2018, surveying the lifestyle habits and opinions of over 1260 Queenslanders.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at cancerqld.org.au and more information about Heart Foundation is available at heartfoundation.org.au.


* Chief Health Officer Report (2016): https://www.health.qld.gov.au/research-reports/reports/public-health/cho-report/2016

Approximate amount of sugar in common sugar-sweetened beverages

  • 600ml sports drink – 9 teaspoons
  • 300ml flavoured water – 5 teaspoons
  • 500ml ice tea – 7 teaspoons
  • 600ml coke – 16 teaspoons


For more media interviews, please contact:
Lisa Maynard,
Manager, Public Relations and Social Media
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5171
Mobile: 0488 015 702
Email: lisamaynard@cancerqld.org.au