Council sugar ban a step closer

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board’s principal dental officer Dr Rob Beaglehole says adding fluoride to the city's ...

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board’s principal dental officer Dr Rob Beaglehole says adding fluoride to the city's water supply would improve the dental health of the entire community.

Marlborough District Council could become the second council in New Zealand to ban sugary drinks from being sold at their venues and events.

The council is to develop a policy around the ban after the region's principal dental officer warned sugar-sweetened beverages were rotting children's teeth and ramping up levels of obesity and Type II Diabetes.

The council has come under pressure from the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board and Nelson City Council (NCC) to implement a ban on sugary drinks at its events venues. NCC adopted the ban in July and it has been well received by ratepayers there.

If a similar policy gets the green light in Blenheim it would cover sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and flavoured milk.

They would be banned from sale in council buildings, at its venues including Stadium 2000 in Blenheim, the ferry terminal and airport and at council-run events.

Diet soft drinks would still be sold and people who wanted a sugary drink could bring it to a council building or event.

Nelson Marlborough principal dental officer Dr Rob Beaglehole, who fought for the board to introduce a similar policy in top of the south hospitals, said the council had a responsibility to act as a role model.

"This isn't a draconian policy for a blanket ban on sugar. We are not about to stop telling people they can't have sugar in their tea or coffee. It is about making the healthy choice the easiest choice."

He was sick of extracting rotten teeth from children who had been drinking soft drinks. Last month he pulled 11 teeth from a 2-year-old boy.

Most of his front teeth were rotten and after the extraction he needed 15 stitches.

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"He wasn't in great shape. He hadn't been sleeping properly for weeks and he hadn't eaten properly for two weeks.

"His mum was beside herself and sat up with him most nights. He was crying in pain."

The child was one of 242 children who went under a general anaesthetic in the Nelson/Marlborough health board area last year, costing the board $1 million. One hundred of these children were from Blenheim, Seddon, Picton and Havelock.

"It is heartbreaking for me to have to do this to kids. It is outrageous in 2014, in a civilised developed country, [that] we have to do this to our children."

In Nelson the council provided free water at events and vendors reported an increase in profits from selling water, which could command a higher mark up.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said the policy would show leadership. "The underlying purpose of a policy is to increase community understanding and encourage a change in behaviour through the promotion of healthy options rather than place the emphasis on bans and restrictions."

Sowman said Nelmac had expressed interest in supplying a water tanker to hand out free water at council events.

Councillor Terry Sloan said the battle would be getting franchises in council-owned buildings such as Stadium 2000 on board.

Councillor Brian Dawson said what children drank was down to parental responsibility not council enforcement. "I see an inevitable creep-in. The next thing, I won't be able to have a biscuit or a pie."

 - The Marlborough Express


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