Doctors' leaders called for higher taxation on sugary drinks alongside warnings that a third of the population will be obese within the next 15 years unless ‘wide-ranging action to promote healthier diets’ was adopted.
The 20% tax could reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by 180,000 people, the BMA said, based on results from other countries which have already introduced similar taxes.
Poor diet is estimated to cause 70,000 deaths a year and cost the NHS £6bn annually.
The proposed sugar tax would affect all non-alcoholic beverages with added sugar, including sugar-sweetened soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks and fruit-juice concentrates.
Outlined in its Food for Thought report, the BMA also demanded that new legislation be implemented to ensure that the 3,700 academies and free schools in England adhere to the same mandatory food standards as state schools, which ban the serving of soft drinks.
‘Doctors are increasingly concerned about the impact of poor diet,’ BMA board of science chairwoman Professor Sheila Hollins said.
‘While sugar-sweetened drinks are very high in calories they are of limited nutritional value and when people in the UK are already consuming far too much sugar, we are increasingly concerned about how they contribute towards conditions like diabetes.
‘We know that the majority of the UK population, particularly low income households, are not consuming enough fruit and vegetables, so financial measures should also be considered to subsidise their price, which has risen by 30% since 2008.
‘This is an important way to help redress the imbalance highlighted previously between the cost of healthy and unhealthy products, which particularly impacts on individuals and families affected by food poverty.’