Call for tax on sugary drinks a sweet relief for toddler teeth

Children as young as 18 months are having multiple teeth pulled due to decay from sugary drinks, according to Melbourne paediatrician and mum-of-three Dr Anthea Rhodes.

The shock revelation comes as a new survey reveals a growing number of Australians support a tax on sugary drinks.

Dr Rhodes, director of the latest Australian Child Health Poll, says 60 per cent of the 2000 households surveyed were in favour of a government tax on sugary drinks such as lemonade and cordial.

“As a paediatrician I see two main health issues related to sugary drinks in children and teenagers; the first is dental health and it’s very significant,” Dr Rhodes says.

“I guess one of the things that has shocked me in recent years is the increasing number of children I do see with tooth decay, sometimes children will come in and have been put to bed with a bottle of juice or bottle of soft drink and that will result in really extensive decay of teeth.

“Children as young as 18 months are requiring multiple tooth extractions and this is directly the result of too much sugar in drinks.

“The second main health issue is related to being overweight and obesity and obviously there is a whole of range of issues to come from that such as issues with cardiovascular health and issues that continue well into adulthood.”

Dr Rhodes says nothing beats water when it comes to the healthiest drink to give children.

“What we are hearing from families is they need more help to limit the amount of sugar their kids are taking in, and even though they know water is best, the cry for sugar is strong and loud and relentless at times,” she says.

“If we can do something at a governmental level to help everyone to achieve that we are going to have much more significant changes to benefit the health of our young people and we will see those benefits for generations to come.”

The UK is about to introduce a tax on soft drinks and countries such as Hungary, Finland and Mexico already have a sugary drink tax in place to encourage manufacturers to limit the sugar in their products.

With just days until the Federal Budget, the poll also found almost 70 per cent of Australians surveyed support government funded full-time kindergarten or childcare for four-year-olds.

Dr Rhodes says the decision to release these key findings early follows the overwhelming support shown on two issues which could lead public discussion ahead of the Federal election forecasted for June, when the rest of the poll’s findings will be published.

This latest research again puts the spotlight on the vital first years of a child’s development and the impact early educators can have.

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