Calls for tax on fizzy drinks to ease UK obesity epidemic

soft drinkDoctors have spoken out on ways that the UK obesity epidemic could be tackled as Brits continue to pile on the pounds. They are calling for fizzy drinks to be heavily taxed, the number of fast food outlets close by to schools and colleges to be severely limited, as well as pre-watershed junk food advertising to be completely banished.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC), who represent almost every one of the 220,000 UK doctors, say rapidly expanding waistlines are a ‘huge crisis’ and have caused them to create their own action plan on how to fight the problem. In their report, the AMRC state that existing measures have been unsuccessful at affecting obesity levels and argue that unhealthy food should be viewed in the same light as cigarettes.

Professor Terence Stephenson, the chair of the Academy, said: “That required things like a ban on advertising and a reduction in marketing and the association of smoking with sporting activities – that helped people move away from smoking. 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.”

Therefore, the AMRC propose a number of solutions that include 20% tax being implemented on sugary soft drinks for at least a period of a year – urging ministers, councils, the NHS and food organisations to take action against what it deems to be ‘the greatest public health crisis affecting the UK’.

Its recommendations include:

. No advertising on foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt prior to 9pm.

. More taxes on sugary drinks to increase prices by at least 20%.

. Less fast food outlets near schools, colleges, leisure centres and other places where children convene.

. A £100m budget set aside interventions such as weight-loss surgery.

. Junk food and vending machines in hospitals to be banned, where all food must meet the same nutritional standards as in schools.

. Food labels to include calorie information for children.

Other recommendations suggestions include NHS staff discussing with overweight patients about their eating and exercise tendencies and guidance for new parents on how best to feed their children.

The academy’s new proposals have finally been released after a year-long investigation into the country’s obesity epidemic. It is now estimated that one in four adults (around 26%) in England is obese – I.e. with a body mass index that is between 30 and 40. Even worse, health experts predict that by the year 2050, 60% of all men will be obese in addition to half of women and a quarter of children.

The following graph demonstrates how the obesity levels within the UK have been steadily rising in recent years:

Prof Stephenson added that the new ideas will not offer a full solution to the UK’s obesity crisis, and continued to criticise sugary drinks for being nothing more than ‘just water and sugar’. He put forth his dismay at a culture where it is the norm for somebody to casually consume a litre of fizzy drink at the cinema. A tax would help to ‘encourage people to drink more healthy drinks’ he said.

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