University of Sydney considers proposal to ban sugary soft drinks from campus

The University of Sydney will examine a proposal to ban the sale and promotion of sugary soft drinks on campus. Photo: Rob Homer
The University of Sydney will examine a proposal to ban the sale and promotion of sugary soft drinks on campus. Photo: Rob Homer
Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence will chair the university's executive meeting at 3pm on Friday.

Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence will chair the university's executive meeting at 3pm on Friday.

The University of Sydney will on Friday consider a proposal to ban the sale and promotion of sugary soft drinks on campus.

The unsolicited proposal comes from a coalition of health and nutrition academics, researchers and students at the university calling itself "Sydney University Healthy Beverage".

The university's executive team, led by Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence, will consider the proposal at its regular meeting on Friday at 3pm. A statement from the university said the "Healthy Sydney University proposal, initiated by university academics, is one of numerous items on the agenda".

"At this stage the matter is for discussion only," the statement said.

Sydney Healthy Beverage involves academics in the Healthy Sydney University initiative, the Charles Perkins Centre for public health and the George Institute for Global Health.

"Corporations behind these products lure children and young adults into lifelong habits through promotions and advertising," said Alexandra Jones, a public health lawyer at the George Institute.

Fairfax Media has previously reported on "sophisticated guerilla marketing campaigns" used by sugary drinks, such as V-Energy. And Red Bull employs "student brand managers" in their marketing campaigns.

Red Bull advertisements for "brand managers" say they are responsible for "building belief in the product benefits and ensuring long-term loyalty starting with the college experience".

The chief executive of the Australian Beverages Council, Geoff Parker, said: "Imposing sales restrictions on students for a small and declining part of the diet not only runs counter to the ethos of free choice that was once heralded on university campuses, it also completely ignores the science.

"Prestigious institutions like Sydney Uni shouldn't be denigrated by cheap political stunts that only serve to mislead, misguide and misinform the community."

A spokesman for Coca-Cola Amatil said: "At least 65 per cent of the stock in [vending] machines [on campus] is low- or zero-sugar. We feel we're already offering students a choice of the right drink for their lifestyle."

PepsiCo was approached for comment.

Parts of an unsolicited submission to the University of Sydney executive to ban the sale and promotion of sugary drinks.

Parts of an unsolicited submission to the University of Sydney executive to ban the sale and promotion of sugary drinks.

The proposal comes from Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn, from the Faculty of Health Sciences; Professor Bruce Neal, director of food policy for the George Institute; and Professor Stephen Colagiuri, director of the university's Boden Institute.

Their plan involves the university phasing out the sale of sugary drinks on campus; regulating the promotion of the drinks, including at events run by students' societies; promoting healthier alternatives; and providing more water fountains.

The proposal at Sydney University comes a year after the University of California, San Francisco, decided to phase out sugary drinks.

Also, on the day of the US presidential election, four US cities – San Francisco, Oakland and Albany in California, and Boulder, Colorado – voted to impose a "soda tax" on sugary beverages.

Director of policy at the free-market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, Simon Breheny, said: "The proposal to ban sugary drinks on campus at Sydney University is lazy and illiberal policy born of a nannying mentality."

Mr Parker at the Beverages Council also said: "Obesity is a serious and complex public issue, and the beverage industry is committed to working with government, the health community and other partners in the food sector to try and find a solution.

"The Beverages Council welcomes a conversation on establishing a broad and holistic approach to tackling obesity."

Tom Swann, a researcher at the Australia Institute, said: "Universities have been leaders on tobacco and are some are now leading on fossil fuels. It makes sense that they would want to lead on the health impacts of sugar."

This story University of Sydney considers proposal to ban sugary soft drinks from campus first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.