SicklySweet campaign launches to educate Aussies on health risks of sugary drinks

Headshot of Kimberley Caines
Kimberley CainesThe West Australian
Young men are the biggest consumers of sugar-laden soft drinks.
Camera IconYoung men are the biggest consumers of sugar-laden soft drinks. Credit: Science Photo Library/Getty Images/SPL RM

A new social media campaign hopes to remind Australians that sugary drinks are a “ticking timebomb” for the nation’s health.

According to the Australian Medical Association, Aussies drink at least 2.4 billion litres of sugar-laden beverages every year, with young men the biggest consumers.

A 375ml can of soft drink contains up to 12 teaspoons of sugar and can increase the risk of obesity and other health issues.

“We think Aussies need to know what they are consuming and the impact it can have on their long-term health,” AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid said.

“Sugary drinks used to be a special treat, but they’re now an everyday product, bringing addiction, and major health problems.

“Sugary drinks are a ticking timebomb for the nation’s health, and we urge Australians to choose water whenever they can.”

Soft drinks contain more sugar than people think. An average 12-fluid ounce can of soda has 40 grams of sugar, or the equivalent of 20 sugar cubes. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Americans should try to limit the amount of sugar intake as part of a healthy and balanced nutritional plan. This photo placed honorable mention, Illustration, in the 2012 Military Photographer of the Year photo competiion. (SSgt Nathanael Callon/USAF/MCT) *** WAN ONLINE OUT ***
Camera IconAn average can of soft drink contains up to 12 teaspoons of sugar. Credit: Ssgt Nathanael Callon/McClatchy Tribune

Dr Khorshid said the #SicklySweet campaign launched on Wednesday, which will appear on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, turned the tables on sophisticated soft drink ads that were directed at young people each summer.

“The campaign asks us to think about how much sugar we consume,” he said.

“These drinks are contributing to obesity and preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.”

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends limiting intakes of drinks high in added sugars, as they provide little nutritional value and can increase the risk of excessive weight gain.

The latest data by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows 9.1 per cent of adults aged 18 and over consumed sugar-sweetened drinks daily.

The 18 to 24 age group had the highest daily consumption — 16 per cent of overall men and 10 per cent of women.

Dr Khorshid said he would like to see Australia introduce a tax on the sugar in drinks, just like the United Kingdom, to send a clear signal to consumers that the drinks were bad for them.

“The overseas experience shows when a tax is placed on sugary drinks there are clear health benefits,” he said.

For more information on the campaign, visit

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