A tax on alcohol is the most cost-effective way to tackle worrying rates of obesity in Australia, researchers at a Victorian university say.
Analysis by health economists at Deakin University found a levy based on alcoholic content, of 84 cents per standard drink, could help reduce consumption and lead to significant health benefits.
Taxing sugary drinks offered the next best value for money, followed by a ban on advertising junk food to children, according to a report published on Wednesday.
"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," co-author Associate Professor Gary Sacks said.
"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."
Almost two-thirds of adults and more than a quarter of children in Australia are overweight or obese.
Jaithri Ananthapavan, senior research fellow and the report's lead author, said the alarming rates can only be addressed through the introduction of multiple interventions, which will require "political courage and commitment".
"Australia's current obesity epidemic has serious negative health and economic consequences," she said.
"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."
The report was funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence grant.
Australian Associated Press