Children across Scotland consume almost 4.4 million soft drinks a week – or more than 600,000 a day – new research has estimated.
The figures, produced by Cancer Research UK, prompted demands for Scottish ministers to change the law to crack down on supermarket multi-buy offers on sugary drinks, many of which are sold as part of bulk-buy deals.
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevent expert, said this would help by “deterring families from stocking up on drinks that are doing so much damage to our diets”.
Health campaigners there had used data from the 2015-17 Scottish Health Survey to calculate the number of soft drinks – including fizzy drinks, energy drinks and diluting juice with added sugar – that youngsters were consuming.
By applying the frequency at which these were consumed to the number of children aged between two and 15, they estimated youngsters across the country drank 627,288 of these a day – amounting to 4,391,015 a week. The figures did not include diet drinks, low calorie or no added sugar drinks, or fresh fruit juices.
Official NHS figures for the school year 2016-17 found almost a quarter (22.9 per cent) of pupils in P1 were at at risk of being either overweight or obese.
While the UK government has introduced a so-called “sugar tax” on soft drinks, Prof Bauld insisted more could be done.
She said: “It’s scandalous that sugary drinks are now a routine part of what our children are consuming daily.
“Supermarket multi-buy deals encourage us to bulk buy, so these drinks are always within reach at home.
“And with almost a quarter of children as young as four entering primary school overweight or obese, the dreadful consequences of our diets are all too obvious.
“While the Sugar Tax was a step in the right direction, there’s much more to be done.
“The Scottish Government must take action by introducing laws to restrict the multi-buy offers on junk food and sugary drinks. This measure would go a long way to deterring families from stocking up on drinks that are doing so much damage to our diets.”
Her call was backed by grandmother Gail Nesbit, from Easter Drylaw, Edinburgh, whose seven year old granddaughter Maci attends the Fet-Lor Youth Club, in the north of the city.
It has recently banned junk food and high sugar drinks from its tuck shop as part of healthy eating initiatives.
Ms Nisbet, 58, said: “The amount of sugary drinks children routinely drink is shocking. So many of the kids go to the supermarket to buy their lunch and of course they’re looking to get the most for their money. If the offers weren’t on sugary juices, then the kids would go for something else instead.”