The ban will come into force from October 1, following a reduction in supply throughout September.

All sugar-sweetened drinks, such as energy drinks, soft drinks, iced tea, sports drinks and vitamin water drinks will no longer be available in the DHB's hospital cafeterias and vending machines.

The only beverages on offer will be water, unflavoured milk, non-sugar added fruit and vegetable juices, tea and coffee, as well as artificially-sweetened diet or 'zero' drinks.

The move has been met with strong approval from doctors, diabetes and oral health services "to name a few", the DHB said today, following the announcement in August.

"As health professionals, we set an example for our patients and leadership starts by providing this example. Dropping fizzy drinks is an easy first step to help equalise energy input and energy output and gain health," Dr Cameron Schauer of the DHB's emergency department said.

Northland DHB oral health advisor Dr Neil Croucher said the decision was a great example of health promotion.

"The cornerstone of health promotion is to make the 'healthier choices the easier choices', or another way of looking at it is making the 'unhealthy choices the more difficult choices'," he said.

"Soon I will be able to walk into my hospital cafe and see mostly water and natural fruit juices as the 'easy to grab' drink choices."

Dr Croucher said high sugar intake has been linked to obesity and diabetes, and was the prime cause of tooth decay, which was at "pandemic proportions".

Dentists in Northland see children younger than 3 years' old who already have all their teeth decayed, he said.

"Frequent intake of sugary laden drinks and foods easily overcomes the protective mechanisms of fluoride toothpaste and calcium rich saliva. The result is uncontrolled tooth decay in many of our children and adolescents that is a well-known predictor of early onset of obesity, diabetes and cardiac disease in adulthood.

"The changes we will see in our hospital cafes and vending machines on October 1 are a small step but are definitely a step in the right direction."

Northland DHB is one of a raft of health boards across the country which have implemented, or are considering, a ban on fizzy drinks, including Nelson and Marlborough DHB, Wairarapa DHB and Whanganui DHB.

How much sugar is in coke?

• 355ml can: 9 tsp

• 600ml bottle: 16 tsp

• 1.5 litre bottle: 40 tsp

• 2.25 litre bottle: 60 tsp

(Source: Northland DHB)

APNZ