Seb Evans questions whether a delay in the junk food advertising ban is the best direction to take for our health.
Earlier this month the government decided to defer a ban on multi-buy deals and junk food pre-watershed TV advertising.
It provoked Jamie Oliver to jump straight back on the campaign trail, appearing right across prime-time TV with surprising speed.
The Department of Health blames the cost of living crisis as the main reason behind the 12-month delay.
Funny, because on the flip side the government is increasing National Insurance payments to cover the rising cost of healthcare and deal with the backlog of treatments.
The cost of decay
Children’s tooth decay costs the NHS more than £40m every year in England, according to recent figures.
And that’s just to cover the cost of the almost 200 operations that occur every day.
It doesn’t take into account the lost days at school; the work days lost as parents take time off to look after their children; the confidence issues children experience.
And it doesn’t take into account the additional burden placed elsewhere on the NHS as patients can’t access a dental appointment and so instead take a different route such as ending up in A&E departments.
The ban on buy-one-get-one-free deals had a wider impact than reducing waistlines.
It was a small win for the oral health of millions of children (and adults).
This move sends a message out to the rest of the country that revenue is more important than their health.
Encouraging better choices
What confuses me is the Department of Health’s excuse; the move was an attempt to help households struggling with the increased cost of living.
Rather than remove a ban on foods proven to be bad for our oral and overall health, why not remove or reduce taxes on products that help improve our oral and overall health?
In many cases now it costs more to choose healthier options than to buy processed junk food.
And advertising junk food pre-watershed is only going to encourage children down an unhealthy lifestyle.
Not only would removing a tax on healthier options help encourage better choices, it will have longer-term impacts on the public purse by helping to reduce the burden on the NHS.
With queues to see not just an NHS dentist, but all areas of the NHS growing following the pandemic, surely this is an area that needs focus.
It’s another example of the government choosing to prioritise treatment over prevention.
Bringing it back to dentistry – as we all cry out for a new NHS contract, the government is giving us no indication that it is looking to curb the number of patients needing urgent treatment.
But if we are to introduce a new NHS contract anytime soon, the focus needs to shift towards preventing decay occuring in the first place.
Not waiting until patients’ dental pain is so severe their only option is to head to their local A&E department.
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