The fall in hospital admissions may have saved more than 5,500 hospital admissions for tooth decay alone and the largest reductions were in children aged up to nine years-old. In England, nearly 90% of all tooth extractions in young children are due to decay, resulting in around 60,000 missed school days a year.
The World Health Organisation recommended a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks to reduce sugar consumption, which more than 50 countries have implemented.
The researchers analysed hospital admissions data for tooth extractions due to tooth decay in children aged 0 to 18 years-old in England from January 2014 to February 2020, four years before to almost two years after the levy was introduced. They studied trends overall as well as broken down by neighbourhood deprivation and age groups.
Overall, in children aged 18 and under, there was an absolute reduction in hospital admissions of 3.7 per 100,000 population per month compared to if the soft drinks levy had not happened. This equated to a relative reduction of 12% compared to if the levy was not introduced.
The researchers acknowledged the observational study could not establish causality but concluded that their study “provides evidence of possible benefits to children’s health from the UK soft drinks industry levy beyond obesity which it was initially developed to address.”