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    It is clearly time for action. Whether it is is community based, primary care based or government based is not really the question – all are required to do different things in their particular spheres of influence. What Government can do, potentially, is tilt the economic board in favour of supporting the kinds of choices which community groups and health care providers are advocating.

    We don’t, generally, ask people to give up drugs and lock them in a room full of crack, we don’t as alcoholics to work in bars, we don’t ask smokers to quit when every vending machine, advertisement and shop promotes cheap cigarettes.

    Microeconomics works. It is paradoxical that free-market, no regulation ideologues will generally argue that economics and price signals work in everything but public health. Strangely, inexplicably, in their universe sugary drinks are immune to the effect of price on demand. They argue this still about tobacco despite the obvious effects of increasing price. Society is full of examples where price is used to change choice. We should use that apparatus as well in public health where the failure of a free market to produce acceptable outcomes is so manifestly obvious.

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    Something I’ve noticed at my local 7-Eleven in the decade I’ve lived nearby – gradually almost all “diet” or low-calorie versions of soft drinks have been edged out of its fridges, so now the only low-calorie options other than bottled water are diet colas laden with caffeine and numbered chemicals.

    Although drinks such as low-calorie iced teas, Solo, etc exist in supermarkets, you can’t buy them from convenience stores.

    Applying a sugar tax to soft drinks might be an effective way to make these low-cal drinks more commercial attractive and readily available.


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