Sugar tax is no panacea

Twomey says frequency and volume of intake more important than price

The introduction of a sugar tax would not be a panacea for the chronic levels of tooth decay affecting Irish children, according to the outgoing president of the Irish Dental Association (IDA).

Dr Anne Twomey, who was speaking at the IDA Annual Conference in Galway, said that the focus should be on encouraging people to reduce the frequency and volume of high sugar content drinks and food, rather than the price they are paying for them.

She said: “There is overwhelming evidence that sugars in food and beverages are the main dietary causes of tooth decay and erosion in children and adults.

“We believe the best approach is through a co-ordinated programme of education and promotion in tandem with an effective school screening programme at junior infant level or even via free dental care for the under sixes.”

Dr Twomey quoted studies that show that half of all Irish 12-year-olds and 75 per cent of all 15-year-olds have some decay in their permanent teeth.

Earlier this year, the UK Government announced a sugar levy on sugar-added soft drinks. Dr Twomey said that if a similar scheme was to be introduced in Ireland, she hoped that revenues raised would be used to fund oral healthcare programmes.