OPINION: NSW hospital drink ban is a sweet decision

Hi. My name is Kylie and I’m a Coca Cola addict.

Despite my fondness for the sweet stuff, I applaud NSW Health’s decision to put its motto where its mouth is by phasing out the availability of sugary drinks with no nutritional value in public hospitals by December.

It’s the first state in Australia to do so as part of its new Healthy Choices in Health Facilities policy. It’s designed to support its Make Healthy Normal campaign by increasing the availability and choice of healthy options in public health facilities.

Healthy options are set to make up at least 75 per cent of offerings in hospital vending machines, cafes and catering services.

The crackdown is part of a goal to reduce obesity rates by five per cent within three years. One in two adults and more than one in five children in NSW are overweight or obese, according to the Heart Foundation. I was stunned to find out that one can of soft drink per day can lead to a 6.75kg weight gain in a year.

It has sparked a mixed reaction from the public. The results of an online poll on our websites revealed that more people are against the ban than for it.

I see it as a great way of reducing the temptation and convenience of unhealthy choices. I don’t think I’d drink my average one to two cans a day if it wasn’t for our office vending machine.

The policy isn’t a new thing. Murrumbidgee Local Health District in NSW’s Riverina region and a number of Victorian health districts have already axed sugar-laden drinks from its facilities. Earlier this year, Westmead Hospital became the first hospital in Sydney to ban sugary drinks as part of a three month Rethink Your Drink trial, with the support of beverage supplier Coca Cola Amatil. The Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District followed suit not long afterwards.

NSW Health hopes its new policy will become a model that can be implemented across any organisation. I think schools would be a great place to start. When I was in primary school from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s, the canteen was a soft drink free zone. The high school canteen was a different story.

Meanwhile for all the other Coke lovers out there, Coca-Cola No Sugar hits the shelves this week, promising to be the closest ever taste to the classic.

  • Kylie Stevens is the senior journalist for the north west Sydney region. Email your views to kstevens@fairfaxmedia.com.au.