With the government’s newly introduced sugar tax we can all expect to pay a bit more for sugary soft drinks. But what are the problems this tax is hoping to prevent?
Obesity is a pressing problem, with more than thirty percent of children between the ages of two and fifteen classed as either overweight or obese. But the leading cause of hospital admissions in children is tooth decay.
What Does the Sugar Tax Mean?
Manufacturers of soft drinks containing more than 5g of sugar per 100ml will be subject to extra taxes. A child aged 7 – 10 should have no more than 24.g of sugar per day. Soft drinks containing 5-7g of sugar per 100ml will be taxed at 6p per can, and soft drinks containing 8g of sugar or more per 100ml will be taxed at 8p per can.
Can sizes in the UK are around 330ml, so a typical can of soft drink can contain up to 16.5g of sugar and still be untaxed. A soft drink in the lower tax band can contain 23.1g of sugar (just shy of what a child should be having in an entire day) and a soft drink in the higher tax band will almost certainly contain more sugar than a child should be drinking.
This tax doesn’t apply to drinks containing milk or fruit juices, which can often be surprisingly high in sugar. These drinks are often sold in larger quantities — Yazoo, for example, which is advertised as having the natural goodness of milk, has more than 9g of sugar per 100ml, adding up to more than 37g per 400ml bottle, and a single Innocent smoothie contains more than 10g of sugar per 100ml, meaning that a small 250ml bottle contains 26g of sugar.
The sugar tax is mainly aimed at fizzy drinks. With around 36g of sugar per can, a single can of cola contains more than a child’s recommended daily allowance of sugar. Fizzy drinks make up around 30% of the sugar in children’s diets and children who drink fizzy drinks frequently as children are more likely to grow up with a sweet tooth, carrying on the cycle of obesity and painful tooth decay.
But What Other Problems Does Sugar Cause?
While reducing sugar consumption to tackle obesity may well save lives, it would also be wise to start investing in our children’s teeth. With a third of five-year-olds and nearly half of eight-year-olds suffering from tooth decay, we are on the verge of a dental health crisis.
More than a third of twelve-year-olds are embarrassed to smile or laugh because of the condition of their teeth. Being able to smile freely is important for mental well-being and being embarrassed to smile could have significant consequences. With dental problems affecting nearly 60% of twelve-year-olds to the point that it interferes with their daily life, dental health is an important problem that needs to not be overlooked.
Sugar is directly linked to decay; in Nigeria, where sugar is not a significant part of the daily diet (around 2g per day, as opposed to Britain’s 60g per day), decay is only present in 2% of the population. In contrast, sugar is added to almost everything we eat here in the UK (especially ready-made meals), which is why 40% of children from a deprived background have tooth decay. With proper education, tooth decay could be almost entirely eradicated. Increasing our children’s knowledge of dental care — and the side effects of neglect — would be a significant investment in our children’s future.
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