Leading local dietitian Peter Clark has backed the Australian Medical Association's (AMA) call for a tax on sugar sweetened drinks.
The AMA proposed the tax in January, along with several other measures to combat obesity including banning junk food advertising aimed at children.
The doctors' lobby group claimed joining the 30-plus countries worldwide, including Ireland, France and the UK, in imposing a sugar tax, is "a matter of priority" and Mr Clark agrees.
"Two in three Australians are overweight and we need to make some significant changes," he told the Argus.
"They've found in a variety of countries you can reduce consumption of sugar quite substantially by adding a tax, which should reduce the incidence of obesity, diabetes and other health conditions. The Grattan Report last year recommended that a 40c per 100g sugar tax would raise about $500 million.”
Such a tax would increase the cost of a two litre bottle of soft drink by 80 cents, which would generate a fall of about 15 per cent in consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.
"So a small increase in the price of sugar can have a substantial impact on people's health," Mr Clark said.
With 11.2 million Australians aged 18 years or older overweight, a sugar tax is not a 'silver bullet' solution to the obesity epidemic.
"25 years ago, 25 per cent of people were smoking but with a government endorsed program to change people's behaviour, that number is now nearing 10 per cent. Similarly, a sugar tax should be one of a range of initiatives. There needs to be more resources to educate people on the impact of their diet and weight, and more fitness programs. There is a variety of things that can be done but increasing the price of one of the core drivers would be pivotal,” Mr Clark said.
Ultimately, individuals are responsible for their own dietary choices, however Mr Clark says many Australians don't realise how much sugar is in everyday items.
"Things like juice have a lot of sugar and many people are unaware," he said.
"Everyone is responsible for themselves but that didn't stop them implementing a coordinated program to reduce smoking."
The experienced dietitian warns it's not as simple as just enforcing a sugar tax and raising prices.
"You need to explain to people the reason the juice price went up is because it contains a lot of sugar and this is the health impact of having a lot of sugar in your diet.
“It needs to be a coordinated approach.
“It's worked with smoking and overseas they've done it with sugar taxes, and the results are positive.
“So we can do it here, the government just needs to come to the party.”
"The current Federal Government being a conservative government has the farming interests at greater focus than perhaps some of the things the World Health Organisation recommend.
"If this was just one dietitian from Port Macquarie shouting out we need a sugar tax, then not a lot of people would listen but you've got the AMA, the WHO and a variety of health bodies around the world supporting it.
"So why does Australia want to resist it?
"I think it's for political reasons rather than health reasons.
"As long as the Federal Government resists the sugar tax I think we're missing a massive opportunity and you have got to ask what is the impact on the next generation of children."