Sugar tax could reduce UK obesity rates by 3.7m people, claims Cancer Research UK
The introduction of 20% tax on sugary drinks could help reduce spiralling UK obesity rates by 3.7 million people by 2025, Cancer Research UK has claimed.
The call for action in a new report by the charity and UK Health Forum was triggered as worrying figures show six in 10 (60%) adults in Northern Ireland and more than a quarter (28%) of children are overweight or obese.
The study also predicts the tax could save the NHS across the UK about £10m in healthcare and social care costs in 2025 alone.
The report says that 58% of people in the province support a tax which could help tackle the rising childhood obesity epidemic.
Adults and young children consume twice the maximum recommended amount of added sugar. And 11-to-18 year olds eat and drink three times the recommended limit, with sugary drinks their main source of added sugar.
It comes as it emerged some drinks at coffee chains Costa and Starbucks had a "staggering" 20-25 spoonfuls of sugar in trendy chai and hot chocolate drinks - over a third had more sugar in them than Coca-Cola.
Cancer Research UK is urging the Government to tax sugary drinks, ban junk food adverts on TV before the 9pm watershed, and introduce targets for reducing the amount of fat and sugar in food.
Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK's spokesperson in Northern Ireland, said: "There are a lot of things working against us when it comes to making healthier choices. We're all bombarded by junk food advertising of cheap foods packed with extra calories and it can be tough for parents to do what's best for their children. The UK Government has a chance to help reduce the amount of sugar consumed by adults and children and to give future generations the best chance of a healthier life."
Jane Landon, UK Health Forum's deputy chief executive, said: "Countries which have introduced a tax on sugary drinks have not only reduced consumption, they have raised much-needed revenues for public health measures. These figures indicate that even a modest tax at 20% - as part of a society-wide response - could help to deliver the scale and pace of change needed to turn around the UK's crisis of obesity-related ill-health."
A DHSSPS spokeswoman, however, said there is no single 'magic bullet' to reduce obesity.