Sugar levy has been effective in reducing tooth decay, according to study

15 November, 2023 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

The introduction of a sugar tax on soft drinks has led to a 12 per cent reduction in the number of under 18s being admitted to hospital to have teeth extracted, according to a new study.

It means that an estimated 5,638 fewer children are having teeth extracted under general anaesthetic every year compared with before the soft drinks industry levy (SDIL) came into force in 2018.

The figures come from analysis of NHS data on hospital admissions in England undertaken by researchers from Cambridge and Glasgow universities.

This study shows that ambitious public health policies can impact on improving child oral health

Co-author David Conway, Professor of Dental Public Health at Glasgow University, said: “Tooth extractions under general anaesthesia are among the most common reasons for children to be admitted to hospital across the UK.

“This study shows that ambitious public health policies such as a tax on sugary drinks can impact on improving child oral health.”

The British Dental Association said the gains made in the fight against tooth decay secured by the sugar levy “show how the UK Government must remain willing to force the hand of the food industry on reformulation”.  

The levy took out 47,000 tonnes of sugar from soft drinks in its first four years as it encouraged drinks manufacturers to reduce sugar levels to avoid the tax. The BDA stress its effectiveness is in sharp contrast to voluntary appeals to the food industry from the Government. 

The BDA said the expansion of the levy into other product ranges – including milk-based drinks, biscuits, cakes, sweets, yoghurts and cereals – would drive widespread reformulation of high sugar foods and need not raise costs for consumers. 

British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch said: “The sugar levy is delivering the goods in the fight against decay, so it’s time to double down.

“This isn’t about adding to the cost of living. When voluntary action has clearly failed, this shows government must force industry’s hand on cutting sugar.”

Tags: children / Decay / dental / Sugar / tax

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