Dentists are supporting a Hastings District Council-led remit to Local Government New Zealand calling for councils to consider developing a sugar sweetened beverages policy for their workplaces, facilities and events.
The remit was designed to encourage councils to model good behaviour in their communities and provide an example to other organisations.
It was also designed to reduce sugar consumption among users of council facilities, and was passed with 61 per cent of representative councils voting in favour of the idea at this week's LGNZ annual general meeting.
The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) was very supportive of the measure, said spokesperson Dr Rob Beaglehole.
"This is great news in the effort to reduce sugary drink consumption. Councils can now lead the way in becoming good examples to their communities."
Hastings district councillor and Hawke's Bay DHB member Jacoby Poulain said she also fully supported the policy and helped Choose Water Hawke's Bay get it tabled for consideration by the Hastings council in March this year.
Choose Water Hawke's Bay was a group of dentists, school dental therapists and DHB health policy workers formed in 2014 to promote healthy beverage options and raise awareness of the detrimental effect of sugar and sweetened beverages.
"Too much sugar has negative health consequences particularly in terms of oral health for our children," Ms Poulain said.
She said dental conditions were a leading cause of hospitalisation for babies to 4-year-old children in Hawke's Bay, and rates for Maori were 4.3 times higher than those of non-Maori.
"There is a higher prevalence of dental problems such as cavities in this age group, some of which are preventable through better access to oral health services and use of preventable treatment and initiatives such as sugar free drink policies.
"I am supportive of any initiative that helps alleviate and repair these negative oral conditions of our children and community."
She added that a project was also underway at the DHB to improve access to community dental health services for children.
Te Taiwhenua O Heretaunga dentist and Choose Water Hawke's Bay member Tina Godbert said she was very impressed that the council took it upon itself to send the remit to LGNZ.
"We have an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, and sugar is a large part of that as well as dental decay, which is one of the top two reasons for children being admitted to hospital," she said.
Just recently she said there was a case in Hawke's Bay where a 3-year-old child had all but three of their teeth pulled out, making life very difficult until their adult teeth came in.
"It's a serious problem but change can happen - it's about changing the environment and reducing temptation."
She said councils were in a position to assist with this, by developing policies to ensure sweetened (whether naturally or artificially) drinks were not available at any of their premises or activities.
"It's about supporting parents to do good parenting, and it gets the message to kids that it's not okay."
The World Health Organisation recommends that free sugars contribute to no more than 10 per cent of total energy intake, equivalent to about 12 teaspoons of sugar per day for an average adult.
Cans of fizzy drink were said to contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar each.