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A shocking image of a toddler's rotting teeth is why a top dentist says Coca-Cola's Christmas truck should stay away from Wales

Coca-Cola’s Christmas truck should be banned from Swansea[1] to help fight the region’s child tooth decay crisis. For the last five years it has also been used in a nationwide tour, and last month stopped at 44 locations across the country where children could pose in front of the lorry and cans of fizzy cola were handed out. It is due in Swansea on November 16, and Cardiff[2] on Sunday, November 19, as part of its latest uk-wide tour[3] .

Coca-Cola says it has a responsible marketing policy and does not provide drinks to under 12s unless their parent or guardian is present and gives their consent. But Karl Bishop, who is Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board’s clinical director for dentistry, says gearing fizzy drinks towards children makes the battle against tooth decay and obesity even harder. Staggering figures show around 3,800 youngsters across South West Wales have had to have their teeth pulled out and undergo other treatment under general anaesthetic in 2016/17.

Leading figures in Liverpool have already called for the truck to be banned over fears over obesity levels. Now Mr Bishop has said he would prefer to see people in Swansea enjoy a far healthier Christmas.

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He said: “It’s really disappointing to hear that the Coca-Cola truck is coming to Swansea this year. “Liverpool has been in the news this week with calls to stop the Coca-Cola truck’s Christmas visit there, and I agree with that.

Marketing and promotion of fizzy drinks towards children is not helpful in the continuing battle against poor oral health and childhood obesity. “The impact of fizzy drinks upon our children is evident when you see the shocking evidence of children with rotten teeth, and the high levels of obese children. Did you know that the number one reason for children undergoing treatment in a hospital is dental disease?

Last year in south west Wales alone around 3,800 children had to have a general anaesthetic to have teeth extracted and other dental work. “These children have to undergo general anaesthetic – with the inherent risk this brings – for an operation to remove their teeth due to a disease; dental decay which was almost entirely avoidable. “Plus, children who have too much sugar in their diet and are obese as a result are at high risk of developing long term damaging conditions such as diabetes.”

He added: “I would urge parents to think hard about why global conglomerates like Coca-Cola do this. Is this about celebrating Christmas, or more a hard-edged business ploy aimed at introducing a new generation to their product, and to grow profits? “Dressing up a lorry in pretty fairy lights, and handing out ‘gifts’ of free drinks this way, is an excellent marketing tactic to link brands of fizzy drinks to the excitement of the Christmas in the minds of young people.

“We, as responsible adults, need to make an informed choice and not fall for marketing hype. It’s our responsibility to act now to support a healthy lifestyle for the future generation. “Let’s look to Swansea adopting a healthier approach to Christmas.”

The Coca Cola truck in Cardiff

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Coca-Cola’s Christmas truck previously came under fire from leading public health expert Professor John Ashton for bringing people “gifts of bad teeth and weight problems.”

Health visitors in Swansea had a pop at the Coca-Cola truck last year because of their concerns over children’s dental health. Jane O’Kane, ABMU’s lead Public Health health visitor for ABMU, previously said: “We know that the acids in fizzy drinks erode tooth enamel which can lead to tooth decay. Our strong advice to parents is that children only need to drink water and milk, which have a neutral pH level in the mouth.

“But as NHS staff we just can’t compete with multi-million pound marketing campaigns by fizzy drinks companies, and our message is getting drowned out. “However, we see the effects of tooth decay in children every day. It’s heart-breaking, and we feel duty bound to speak out about it.”

Qualified dental nurse and ABMU lead for the Designed to Smile children’s dental programme, Mandy Silva, added: “The Coca-Cola truck is fast becoming a Christmas icon as our towns and cities give the go ahead for it to tour around, handing out free samples. “We don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, but it’s not fun to have decayed teeth either. We want children and young people to enjoy Christmas with healthy smiles.”

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But others see the arrival of the red truck as symbolic of festive cheer and welcome its arrival.

Coca-Cola Great Britain previously said the tour was in line with its “responsible marketing policy”.

“We do not provide drinks to under 12s unless their parent or guardian is present and happy for us to do so,” said a spokesman.

“The fact is, as government data shows, sugar intake from soft drinks by both children and teenagers continues to decline and consumption of full sugar soft drinks in general has fallen by 44 per cent since 2002.

“We will continue to take actions to help people to reduce the sugar they consume from our range of drinks, but the evidence suggests the current focus on sugar and soft drinks alone will not address the problem.”

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References

  1. ^ Swansea (www.walesonline.co.uk)
  2. ^ Cardiff (www.walesonline.co.uk)
  3. ^ as part of its latest uk-wide tour (www.walesonline.co.uk)



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