Irish dentists angered by unspent sugar tax windfall

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Northern Irish dentists have reacted angrily to the news that millions of pounds raised by a sugar tax has not been spent by Stormont.

The British Dental Association in Northern Ireland accused officials of allowing more than £12 million raised by the sugar levy to slip into a “black hole.” Dentists had been under the impression that some of the revenues raised by the tax would be spent on improving standards of oral health among children.

When the tax was introduced, devolved governments were given the choice of how to spend the money, and the BDA in Northern Ireland is concerned that none of the funds will be used to improve education or provide preventative treatments for children. There are also concerns about the future of the tax, after Tory leadership candidate, Boris Johnson said that he would be in favour of eliminating what he called “sin taxes” and replacing them with incentives to live more active lifestyles.

Rates of decay are the worst in the UK in Northern Ireland, and the BDA believes that the government should be using funds amassed from the sugar levy to invest in children’s oral health. Dentists used the examples of programmes, which were introduced several years ago in Wales and Scotland. The Childsmile scheme, for example, has helped to cut rates of decay and improve dental registration rates significantly in Scotland.

The latest figures cited by the BDA in Northern Ireland suggest that 72% of 15-year-olds in Northern Ireland have signs of decay, compared to 63% in Wales and 44% in England.

Council chair of the BDA NI, Caroline Lappin, lamented the fact that none of the cash raised by the sugar tax would be invested in children’s oral care, especially as even a fraction would make an incredibly positive impact. The BDA has also expressed regret over Boris Johnson’s comments about abolishing the sugar tax.

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