Call for 20% fizzy drinks tax over obesity fears

Professor Terence Stephenson labels fizzy drinks 'the ultimate bad food'. Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Professor Terence Stephenson labels fizzy drinks 'the ultimate bad food'. Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images
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FIZZY drinks should be taxed at 20 per cent to help tackle spiralling levels of obesity, an influential medical group has demanded.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which represents almost all of Britain’s 220,000 doctors, is pressing ministers, councils, the NHS and food organisations for action on what it calls “the greatest public health crisis affecting the UK”,

It also recommends a ban on advertising foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt before 9pm and limiting the number of fast food outlets near schools and leisure centres and a ban on vending machines in public areas.

In a report, following a year long study, the AMRC said doctors from across the medical profession are united in their concerns, and criticised the present and previous governments for insufficient and ineffective attempts to tackle the problem.

One in four adults in the UK is obese, figures say, a number expected to double by 2050. Doctors fear the obesity crisis is becoming “unresolveable”, and are calling for society “as a whole” to act before it becomes irreversible.

The report also drew parallels with the campaign against smoking, saying: “Just as the challenges of persuading society that the deeply embedded habit of smoking was against its better interests, changing how we eat is now a matter of necessity.”

The need for action is urgent to break the cycle of “generation after generation falling victim to obesity-related illnesses and death,” it added.

Professor Terence Stephenson, the chairman of the AMRC, said the report was not a full solution to obesity, but outlines what needs to be done now before the NHS can no longer cope.

Prof Stephenson attacked fizzy drinks, saying a tax on them was justified as they are “the ultimate bad food”.

And he said while there was no “silver bullet” for tackling obesity, the eating culture needs changing to make it easier for people to make healthy decisions.

“I choose what I eat or whether I smoke, what people have told us is they want help to swim with the tide rather than against the current to make the healthy choice the easy one,” he said.

He added: “Doctors are often accused of playing the nanny state, we didn’t hear from a single person who said they liked being overweight, everybody we met wanted help from the state and society.

The Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, dismissed the report as adding “little to an important debate”.