As a dental student, I showed considerable promise and dedication to my extra-curricular activities, and somewhat less to my chosen career path. In retrospect, I think it may have been touch-and-go as to whether the Dublin Dental Hospital was willing to put its qualification after my name. Miraculously, after just 7 short years, I finally left Trinity with my dental science degree clutched tightly in my hand.
But try as I might today, I can’t quite bring that science training to bear in the case of the mooted sugar tax.
- If we look at countries where a sugar tax has been introduced, there is some evidence that the tax causes a moderate decrease in consumption, but this effect tends to fade quite quickly.
- There is no significant evidence that sugar taxes cut body mass index (BMI), or rates of obesity, diabetes or heart disease, but there is evidence that they have not achieved such desired and promised public health gains
- Evidence that sugar causes tooth decay is very strong, but there is little evidence that a sugar tax has impact on rates of decay in adults or children
- Most sugary drinks taxes were implemented quite recently, so subsequent research may yield different results as the effects of the taxes develop.
So the evidence of societal benefit from a sugar tax is, at best, shaky.
Now that’s all well and good when I’m wearing the sciency hat, which gets an outing from time to time. Most of my days, however, I’m sporting the much-preferred irrational tweed cap. I have spent twenty minutes looking for a parking spot that will shave thirty seconds off my walk to the gym, before climbing onto the treadmill. More than once, I found myself pressing the button on the remote harder because the batteries were dead.
And in the face of very little evidence that it works, I can’t help but find myself in favour of a tax that may (or may not) decrease sugar consumption. I just know it has to be right – it just feels like it should be.