A few years ago, I was in Palmerston North to MC an event. I went into town to visit a very good book shop there and was passed by a young mum, hugely pregnant and puffing away on a cigarette.
She was pushing a buggy complete with a toddler who'd been sucking on a bottle which was now empty. He was grizzling a little so she stopped to refill it. And from beneath the pushchair she pulled a jumbo-sized bottle of Coke, refilled his bottle and handed it back to the toddler who gleefully resumed sucking away at it.
I wonder if that little boy was one of the Kiwi kids who had to be anaesthetised to have their rotten teeth extracted. According to a report in the Herald this week, $20 million a year is spent on anaesthetic alone to numb the mouths of traumatised children who need to have their teeth pulled out, and dentists are putting the blame firmly on sugary drinks.
A petition has been launched this week calling for the Government to put a tax on sugary soft drinks. The New Zealand Beverage Guidance Panel is behind this one; it's not the first petition to be presented to Parliament.
One with 10,000 signatures was presented in August 2017 but was largely ignored by politicians. Dr Rob Beaglehole of the New Zealand Dental Association said the association backed the petition but they want to see the Government do more than just implement a tax.
He was quoted as saying "We've had enough of Coca-Cola, McDonald's and other junk-food companies selling this sickness to our kids. They keep getting away with it - we need to make the healthy choice the easy choice."
Last year, the Ministry of Health's chief science advisor told Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that a sugar tax of around 20 per cent had been shown to work and would generate millions in revenue and, over time, save 50 lives a year.
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The UK, Mexico, the Cook Island and Tonga have all introduced a tax on sugary drinks. But seriously - where does the responsibility for these kids' rotten teeth and obesity really lie? With the fast-food companies? Do they creep out in the middle of the night, crawl through bedroom windows and push their products into the mouths of sleeping children? No. They don't.
Up to a certain age, we, as parents, are entirely responsible for what our children consume. At 3 or 4 years old, they can't walk down to Maccas and pick up a burger and Coke for themselves.
That wee toddler I saw in the push chair in Palmerston North couldn't fill his own bottle with Coke. That was done by his idiotic mother. Sure, fine, slam a tax on sugary drinks. Knock yourselves out. Get that extra revenue.
The extra cost may give teenagers and young adults pause for thought and help them make healthier choices when it comes to their lunch and snack selections. Educate people that honey on the dummy will surely rot their babies' teeth.
Fruit juice and carbonated water can also damage teeth. Tell parents to get toothbrushes for their babies and make teeth brushing part of their morning and night-time ritual.
There's a lot that can be done before a sugar tax. But when you have children under 10 having to be anaesthetised so their rotting teeth can be pulled from their jaws, I don't think Dr Beaglehole should be pointing the bone at fast-food chains and soft-drink companies. The real culprits are the children's woefully inadequate parents. And no tax is going to fix their stupid.