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We need a sugar tax to stop GPs filling in for dentists

Dr Zahid Chauhan

Like many GPs I am – if you will pardon the pun – tired of filling in for a crisis in dental health in Britain.

Let us as health carers show our teeth in the battle to preserve this sugar tax

In fact, I see at least one patient per day with toothache or abscesses, which plays its part in clogging-up my already busy schedule. The situation for A&E units is even worse, with tooth decay the top reason for admission to hospital for 5-9-year-olds.

Many people point the finger at a lack of affordable dentists and certainly annual hikes of 5% in treatment prices do not help. Bold attempts to recruit more dentists should be applauded, though attracting trained technicians from the EU will be more difficult now that we have Brexited.

The main culprit for Britain’s plummet into poor dental health is the fast food industry and in particular, the sugar-filled drinks that saturate the market. Energy drinks – unfettered by effective current legislation – can contain up to 20 spoonfuls of sugar.

I was therefore encouraged that then chancellor George Osbourne proposed a levy on highly sugared drinks in his March 2016 budget. I had hoped this would be part of a concerted drive to sanction unhealthy food, with funds raised ploughed into public health campaigns.

But then the impact of Brexit was felt again and the anti-tax lobby seized their chance. There have already been noises about approaching the new personnel of Government and stopping the so-called sugar tax in its tracks. Warnings of job losses in the drinks industry and increased grocery bills for hard working families have also appeared in the nation’s tabloids.

This is simply an attempt to protect vested interests. What about the burden some sections of the drinks industry place upon our healthcare service? That is not just financial but also operational, as we struggle to find the time and resource to treat patients with the liver damage, obesity, cardiac problems and poor oral health that their more irresponsible products contribute to.

And what about the strain that dealing with illnesses such as type two diabetes – emotional, physical and financial – brings hard-working families?

Sanction should always be a last resort. But in this case, it has been proposed because too many within the drinks industry have not been made accountable for what is in their products.

So, let us as health carers show our teeth in the battle to preserve this sugar tax so that we might create better health in Britain and stop dental problems taking a huge bite out of our appointments diary.

Dr Zahid Chauhan is a senior partner in Greater Manchester


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Readers' comments (4)

  • This post demonstrates how a centrally, politically determined, solely tax funded health care system leads to calls to regulate all aspects of our lives under the guise of protecting the functioning of the system itself.

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  • Simon Gilbert, the air we breathe will be taxed. Scary

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  • I think we need to start by slimming down some chubby guys with grubby fingers sitting in the government and trying to impose a sugar tax.
    C'mon, have these guys never heard a patient saying -Doc, don't have any joy in my life, no wine, woman or song - sweets give me that zest for life and can't live without a chocolate:)
    We'll be depriving the deprived as they still will indulge in sugary foods as that's what keeps their world revolving. The rich will be unaffected in their ivory towers. So where is the sense?

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  • Although sugar is linked to dental problems, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that a tax on sugar will reduce sugar consumption. Without addressing decisively personal habits, educating the public and controlling advertising, all attempts to reduce sugar consumption are a waste of time.

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