Malaysian Dental Association fully supports sugar tax to improve oral health

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We note with interest Damansara MP Tony Pua’s suggestion in Parliament to tax soft drinks to increase revenue and also encourage healthy living.

It is heartening that Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin and Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Al, registered their support for the common goal of promoting better health for the nation.

The Malaysian Dental Associa­tion fully supports such a move for the following reasons:

> Added sugar is one of the prime causes of early childhood caries and also the decay of teeth throughout adulthood. The World Dental Congress’ (FDI) published position is “There should be a concerted, integrated effort of parents, schools, health ministries and other stakeholders to decrease the intake of added sugar in all its forms.”

> Added sugar in food and drinks has been closely tied to obesity and diabetes which worsens many oral diseases especially gum disease which is robbing many Malaysians of their teeth before their time.

Contrary to popular belief, people should be able to keep their teeth for life if they have regular check-ups with appropriate treatment and avoid excessive sugary food and drinks.

Obesity and diabetes are the precursor of many chronic diseases of the mouth, heart, kidneys, liver, eyes and limbs that are filling our hospitals and causing many to age unhealthily.

The World Health Organisation had declared that adults should not take more than 5% of their daily caloric needs from added sugar.

As a rule of thumb, it roughly means not more than five teaspoons of sugar per day. This is quite telling when a can of soft drink generally contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar.

The Malaysian Dental Association was instrumental in starting the ball rolling in 2017 with Operasi Sifar Gula to eliminate added sugar in our food and drinks.

Sugar that is already naturally present in fruits, vegetables and meats is already sufficient for human nutritional needs.

A tax on sugar will serve to highlight the severe health problems that the nation is suffering as a result of cheap and abundant added sugar.

This has added to our annual health bill to the tune of billions of ringgit, besides the immense suffering to citizens and loss of production to the nation.

The Malaysian Dental Association fully supports a tax on sugary drinks as the first of various steps to address the pervasive deleterious effects on the health of the nation.

A tax will save millions of teeth, lower the incidence of obesity and diabetes and improve our financial health by reducing the cost of healthcare besides adding to the treasury’s coffers.


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