Canberra: Australia should follow Britain's lead and impose a "sugar tax" in order to curb the skyrocketing number of diabetes cases, a leading health expert said on Thursday.
Stephen Colagiuri, a diabetes expert and the only Australian to contribute to the World Health Organization's (WHO) inaugural global report on the disease, said the number of people worldwide who live with diabetes had quadrupled since 1980.
According to the report - released on World Health Day - 422 million people worldwide were currently living with the condition, reports Xinhua news agency.
Colagiuri said Australia was one of the worst nations for feasting on sugary snacks, something evidenced by the high number of diabetes cases.
"We are also regrettably average in the increasing rates of diabetes that we see in Australia," Colagiuri told the Australia Broadcasting Corp (ABC).
"And we're fairly high up on the list of countries with regard to overweight and obesity, which is a major driver of diabetes."
Colagiuri said government intervention was crucial to getting the message through to Australians that too much sugar can have negative effects on the human body.
He said a "sugar tax" - similar to the one enacted by the British government last month - was one way the government could tackle the problem and discourage Australians from seeking out sugary foods.
"A sugar tax will clearly not be the only solution to the problem, but there has never been a successful public health intervention which has not involved some form of legislation and regulation, and leaving the changes to be made on a voluntary basis simply doesn't work," he said.
World Health Day is a global health awareness day held every April 7.