Tax on sugary drinks could cut tooth decay

Bad teeth.
Bad teeth.

WIGAN’S health chiefs are backing calls to tax sugary food and drink in a bid to cut down tooth decay and diabetes.

As the British Medical Association (BMA) proposes a levy on fizzy drinks and sugar-based foods to deter people away from them, Wigan’s public health team believes anything that can help reduce the health crisis in the borough would be welcome.

The region has the highest rate of tooth decay in the country, with a third of five-year-olds sporting rotten teeth and 1,000 more children being diagnosed with diabetes this year compared to the previous year.

Latest figures show that 689 youngsters in Wigan required hospital treatment in 2012/13 for tooth decay, with the borough having the third highest number of dental extractions among youngsters aged between 0 and 19.

Prof Kate Ardern, director for public health at Wigan Council, said: “The suggestion of a tax on sugary food and drink is an interesting idea and one which is worth further discussion and consideration.

“However such a measure would have to be brought in at a national level as a government policy so the leadership on calls for this comes from Association of Director of Public Health, Royal Society of Public Health and Faculty of Public Health.

“Should such a tax be brought in across the country one of the potential benefits would be an impact on children’s dental health.”

Prof Sheila Hollins, who led the team behind the BMA report, said: “If a tax of at least 20 per cent is introduced, it could reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by around 180,000 people.

“We know from experiences in other countries that taxation on unhealthy food and drinks can improve health outcomes, and the strongest evidence of effectiveness is for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

“The majority of the UK population, particularly low income households, are not consuming enough fruit and vegetables, so financial measures should also be considered to subsidise their price, which has risen by 30 per cent since 2008.”

Also this week, Royal College of Surgeons’ dental faculty has called for stark health warnings, similar to cigarette packets, to make parents think twice about allowing children to eat sugary foods.