Tooth decay is the number one cause of hospital admission in Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.
The principal dental officer who has helped spearhead a ban on the sale of sugary drinks in Wairau Hospital and Nelson Hospital said daily children turned up to his surgery swigging from fizzy drink or energy drink bottles.
Last year 240 children in the board area were put under general anesthetic to have a tooth or teeth removed Dr Rob Beaglehole said.
He told a meeting of Marlborough Primary Health Organisation the average age of patient was five-years-old. The youngest was two-years-old.
Each tooth extraction costs the board between $3000 and $5000 costing the board a minimum of $720,000.
He was speaking as the board has banned the sale of sugary drinks being sold from Nelson Hospital cafe years after Wairau Hospital led the way.
A change in the board's healthy eating policy for staff and visitors means sugar-sweetened drinks including soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and flavoured milk are not permitted to be sold at the hospital cafe.
Dr Beaglehole said people would be stunned if they knew the total amount of sugar in your average fizzy drink.
He said a 1.5 litre bottle of Coca Cola - the number one selling item in New Zealand supermarkets - has 40 teaspoons of sugar - seven times the recommended daily sugar amount for a child.
The World Health Organisation recommends an adult has no more than 10 teaspoons of sugar a day and children have no more than six.
"The general manager of Coca Cola told me ‘I am sorry our products are causing suffering to a lot of kids, but they shouldn't drink it'."
Dr Beaglehole said children were susceptible to advertising campaigns and peer influences.
"Children tell me they drink it [sugary drinks] because it is cheap and because the All Blacks drink it."
He called for taxation of sugar sweetened drinks and a sponsorship and advertising ban.
"Ten years down the track we will look back at this time and think what were we doing allowing these products to be sold."
He urged Marlborough District Council to ban the sale of sugary drinks from their buildings and events
"We don't want to ban Coca-Cola from Blenheim. We want the council to show leadership that they recommend it is not sold in their swimming pool, in vending machines and events."
Mayor Alistair Sowman said Dr Beaglehole should submit a proposal to council for consideration.
- The Marlborough Express
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